Real Simple’s etiquette expert weighs in on whether or not you always need to give a gift in return.

By Real Simple
Updated November 29, 2012
Francesco Lagnese

Q: I feel bad when child-free folks give gifts to my kids, should I give gifts to them in exchange?

A: Children and presents are a uniquely magical combination. Please don’t feel the need to add reciprocity to it. You can try to preempt the entire situation, if you like, by reminding friends that they don’t need to give your kids anything. But many people genuinely enjoy shopping for and giving all that fun kid stuff—Lego fire stations and knit teddy-bear hats—while the grown-up equivalent of scented candles and fleece throw blankets? Not so much.

So go ahead and let them. In return, your children can offer their beaming delight and, of course, their gracious thank-you notes.

Catherine Newman