Although it may be the holiday season, as far as presents go that doesn't mean a whole lot to Millennials. Like so many other issues, they have their own ideas about gift giving. Apparently what they want is cash, mostly to pay down college costs and other debt.

So much for the negative stereotype that those born between 1980 and 2000 are lazy and have a sense of entitlement. Millennials are laboring under a collective $1 trillion in debt from student loans and still struggling to find jobs. Yet a survey of 6,500 members of the so-called 'Me Generation' indicates that last year well over half of them made donations to charitable causes and volunteered their time.

"Money is but one venue for generosity. Kindness is an even more valuable currency." Alan Cohen, author

As the parents of Millennials, no matter what gifts you're giving this year, you probably want to spend holiday time with family. Here are ideas for you and your Millennials that include the spirit of giving back:

Give the gift of connection. Put heart in your relationships. Make a weekly date and take your own parents to lunch, a museum or the movies. Send a card to an old friend you’ve lost contact with - enclose a photo, your email address and a promise to keep in touch. Drive an elderly neighbor to run errands, the grocery store, a doctor’s appointment.

Give to a worthy cause. Get the family together and help cook the holiday meal at a homeless shelter. Pass forward unused gifts or toys. Make a donation to your favorite Aunt's charity of choice. Buy a present for a street person you pass regularly and make eye contact when you give it.

Give of yourself. Invite friends over for a potluck and an evening of fun. Why not cook the main dishes and have them bring an appetizer or dessert? Cut down on expenses by exchanging memories instead of gifts. Create a coupon book filled with orders for good deeds. Add a personal touch by baking cookies with the kids. Show others you care with an IOU for babysitting so they can enjoy a much-needed date night.

"Attention is the purest form of generosity." Simone Weil, philosopher

Isn't it time for change in your gift giving rituals? Millennials have the right idea - focus on more connection and less stuff. All it has to cost you is time. Take heart as you give a little that means a lot. And in these challenging times, that’s a good lesson for all of us.

© Her Mentor Center, 2013

Author's Bio: 

Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. is a consultant in family dynamics. Whether you're coping with marital stress, acting out teens, aging parents, boomerang millennials or difficult in-laws, she has practical solutions. Log on to her website at and sign up for a free ezine 'Stepping Stones,' and complimentary eBooks, “Reaching Your Goals” and “Taking Control of Stress.”