The first holiday season post-separation and/or divorce can be stressful for those with children. On top of coordinating holiday visitation schedules, those that co-parent may also be worried about how gift-giving will be handled.
Following a separation and/or divorce, holiday traditions are likely to change, so some parents may feel the need to spend a bit more on their children’s gifts than usual to compensate. While this may tempt some parents to try and “one-up” one another, it is important to put differences aside and put the children first.
Below are a few tips on gift-giving as co-parents:
Have a plan – Communication and coordination about gift-giving in advance can help prevent unwanted stress for both the parents and the child(ren). Having a conversation about gift-giving prior to the holidays can keep parents from giving duplicate gifts or from giving a gift that the other parent might not like.
Establish a budget – Some parents may choose to set a budget and pick out joint gifts, others may want to keep gifts separate. For those that wish to keep gifts separate, setting a spending limit helps to keep things equal, especially if one parent is at a financial disadvantage. A spending limit will keep him or her from feeling lesser-than and will also keep the other parent from buying expensive gifts.
Decide where the gifts will “live” – A parent may spend a lot of time picking out the “perfect” gift, only to be disappointed when the child takes the gift to the home of the other parent. It is very common for children to want to travel with their favorite possessions, however, this does not mean that parents must allow their children to take anything they choose between houses. For example, if a mother wants her child to have a toy that the child keeps only at her house, she should consider not giving it as a holiday gift so boundaries can be set with the child regarding the toy.
Don’t make it a competition – Parents should never turn gift-giving into a competition. This can make children feel uncomfortable or guilty, making it difficult to even enjoy the gifts they receive. Proactive communication and the establishment of a budget can help prevent holiday gift-giving from turning into a competition.
Focus on the children – It is important to remember that the holidays are not all about gift-giving. When children grow up, it is very likely that they will not remember which parent gave what gift to whom, but rather how their parents made them feel during their first holiday season with separated parents.
The holidays are stressful enough as it is and those that co-parent should not have to worry over gift-giving. If you or someone you know is experiencing difficulties co-parenting, contact one of our experienced family law attorneys today.