12/06/2012 10:57 am ET Updated Feb 05, 2013

'Waste Not, Want Not' -- Talk to Your Kids About Regifting

For as long as people have been receiving gifts, some of those gifts have been regifted. Until recently, re-giving was a poorly kept secret, thought of as taboo or tacky. It was often the subject of familiar jokes, folklore and sitcom plots. The Magi brought the first Christmas gifts -- everyone likes gold, but I'm pretty certain the frankincense and myrrh were regifted.

In the past, people have passed on unwanted gifts via "White Elephant" swap meets, or simply surreptitiously re-wrapped them and hoped no one would notice. Now, the process has become accepted into the social mainstream.

Socially, fiscally and ecologically responsible, regifting is an acceptable way of holiday economizing. Many articles are written on this subject for adults but what about incorporating regifting into your kids' lessons on gift-giving, gift-getting, recycling and charity?

Thoughtful Giving

Remember that gift-giving is an expression of gratitude, love, friendship and thoughtfulness. Teach your kids that giving a gift is not to be used as a way of showing off -- there is no need go overboard. The child should understand that it is about taking time to consider the recipient and tailor the gift appropriately: "Grandma, I saw this scarf, I know how much you like red so I knew you'd love it." Also, make sure to include the option of a homemade gift.

Remember that old adage about how it's not the cost of the gift, it's the thought behind it? Well, when you're regifting, there's no cost to the gift, so the thought behind it is even more important. The question isn't "Who can I palm this lame puppy jigsaw puzzle off on?" It's "Do I know someone who really likes jigsaw puzzles?"

Gracious Receiving

Just as your kid knew that Grandma would love that red scarf, Grandma was just as certain that you would love that puppy jigsaw puzzle. The gift was well-meaning and bought with love, but unfortunately, we can't really be sure of what someone will like. Your child has to be taught to remember that a gift is a kind gesture and be thankful and polite to the giver.

Think Green

Re-giving a gift that is better suited for someone else is earth-friendly. Regifting is a good form of recycling. I am reminded of the evergreen animated children's classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys. Considering that natural resources and money were used in purchasing a gift, rather than sitting at the bottom of the toy chest, it deserves to be loved by someone. Just because you don't want it doesn't mean it doesn't have value.

Those Less Fortunate

Growing up in less politically correct times, we would hear, "Why don't you play with that thing-a-ma-jig that Sis gave you for your birthday? You know there are poor kids in [fill in a country] that would love to have any toy to play with." In this time of economic unease -- even with indicators moving in the right direction -- there are too many children and families that can't afford the luxury of Christmas gifting right in our own backyard.

Donating an unwanted gift can make a difference as well as being a wonderful lesson for your children. There are many clothing, toy and household item drives that are desperate for items. Organizations such as Toys for Tots collects new, unwrapped gifts to be distributed to underprivileged children in the community in which they were donated. You can also check with your local religious institutions and town halls to see what programs they have. This is regifting on a grand and extremely worthwhile scale.

There are a few important things to remember should you decide to regift. You have to be fully transparent -- don't try to slip a regift past someone. Make sure the gift is in its original, unopened packaging. Also, in some instances, wearing that ugly pair of moose slippers from Uncle Bob when he's visiting is a simple way of saying "I appreciate your thinking of me." That acknowledgment and the treasured memories you build are more important than passing the slippers on to someone else.

How about you? Many of us have regifting horror stories, and they're always fun to hear. But let's have some good stories, too. What are some wonderful regifts you've gotten from someone? What about times you've found the perfect person to match a regift with -- and made that someone very happy? Please share your thoughts below.