After your divorce, getting along at the holidays can be a stressful situation when you have kids. On top of trying to work out holiday visitation schedules and travel plans, you may also be worrying about what to get your kids. You might not have the resources to buy things like you did before the divorce. Maybe you have the resources and your ex doesn’t or vice-versa. So what do you do about those big-ticket items that your children have been eying since September? Being divorced brings on divisions over gift giving. Set aside some time with you ex, meet for coffee and talk about what your child wants or would like as gifts, and divide up the list, so you’re not duplicating each other and know what the other is buying. Also discuss whether or not a gift will be left at one parent’s house or if it can travel back and forth. If you have a hard time sitting down and talking in person, do it by email or phone. Sometimes it’s easy to ignore or “cross that bridge when we get there” but setting gift giving boundaries ahead of time creates less drama later on.
It’s all too easy for the holidays to become a competition, to see which parent can buy the most stuff, the best stuff, or the most expensive stuff. Even parents that are great at co-parenting can fall victim to this game. You and your ex have to make sure this doesn’t happen to you and your child(ren). That behavior takes the focus of the holiday away from your child and spending time together. If one of you buys your child a puppy, a new video gaming system, and a big-screen TV and the other buys a few toys, feelings are likely to be hurt. The spouse who buys the big gifts often does not realize he or she is hurting the other parent and thinks they are simply making the child happy. However, if you’re the spouse who doesn’t splurge, you might end up feeling like you’ve failed your child or she will love the other parent more. Avoid this situation but having that gift giving conversation ahead of time; set a dollar limit or range if you need to.
Holidays are hard. It’s important to remember the reason for the season, no matter what holiday you are celebrating. Try to focus yourself and your child on the fact that the holidays are not all about gifts. Spend time together doing holiday crafts, going to services, going to a concert, decorating your home, or baking. Check into age appropriate volunteer opportunities at a local shelters to serve meals to the homeless, packing shoe boxes for children overseas, or volunteer to wrap presents for needy children. Take your child shopping to buy a small gift to give the other parent. 20 years from now your child won’t remember which parent bought them the most gifts, so use this opportunity to show your child that giving back to others is more rewarding than receiving gifts – a life lesson they will remember for years to come.
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