It’s not uncommon for newly separated or divorced parents to feel some guilt about the effect of the break-up on their children. Even if you’re doing everything right, it’s understandable that you feel that way – especially during the holidays.
Parents often try to assuage that guilt through multiple and extravagant gifts for their kids. While that might make your children happy for a short time, gifts are no substitute for quality time with each of their parents. It can also leave you entering the new year with large credit card bills you can’t afford right now.
Here are some tips for co-parent gift giving:
Coordinate with your co-parent
It’s best for everyone – including your kids – if you and your co-parent can divide up each of your children’s Christmas lists so that you’re not duplicating gifts. If there’s an expensive item on the list, have it be from both of you, no matter how you divided the cost. This is no time for competition.
Don’t ban your co-parent’s gifts from your home
The gifts your children receive are theirs to use in whichever home they’re in. Don’t tell your child they can’t play with the toy your co-parent gave them when they’re in your home.
An exception to that would be if your co-parent got your child something you made clear you didn’t want them to have – like an electric scooter or a toy gun, for example. That gets us to another tip.
Don’t undermine your co-parent
Stay away from gifts your co-parent disapproves of. Whether it’s a violent video game or a doll that seems inappropriately mature, it’s best if both parents can respect each other’s wishes. Even if you think your ex is being unreasonable, your child will likely be the one to suffer most if they receive a gift that leads to more conflict between their parents.
Of course, even if you adhere to whatever agreements you make with your co-parent regarding holiday gifts, there’s no guarantee they’ll do the same. That doesn’t mean you should stop trying to do the right thing. If gift giving becomes a serious issue, you may want to consider adding some provisions about it to your parenting plan before the next birthday or holiday rolls around. Your family law attorney can help.