Gift-giving is often a part of holiday celebrations with family and friends. Your own family rituals and values often determine how gifts are exchanged, as well as the number and types of presents given, and the expense involved. After divorce, you and your child’s other parent may want to discuss how to handle gift-giving to help ensure your child gets to enjoy the same holiday experience he or she has had over the years, or at least gets off on the right foot when creating new holiday traditions.
Here are some suggestions to help make gift-giving easier after divorce:
• Consider making a list of your child’s wants and needs. List the items your child wants but aren’t necessities, such as toys or the latest electronics, as well as your child’s needs, including clothes, winter coats, boots, or other items outside of the normal family budget. Ideally, each of you will agree to buy gifts from both lists, which helps provide for your child’s immediate needs while also allowing each of you to surprise them with a few of their want items, as well.
• If you’re handling gift-giving separately, try to agree on a budget on how much each of you will spend to avoid a competition in which one parent is trying to outspend the other — whether buying more gifts or more expensive ones to try to look better in the eyes of your child. Also, be sure to let the other parent know what gifts you’ll be giving to avoid duplication.
• Consider pooling resources to buy presents from Santa Claus, or one big gift that is from both parents. Each parent can still buy smaller gifts to exchange at their individual homes, as well.
• If you and your co-parent are on relatively good terms, consider coming together for gift exchanges, whether participating in a Hanukkah celebration as a family or just making sure you’re both there to watch your children open gifts. Consider the message you’re sending to your children when both of you — the most important people in their lives — are there to celebrate their joy and delight!
• Never criticize a gift the child receives from the other parent or a holiday celebration they may share together. Doing so hurts your child’s relationship with the other parent and can cast also a negative shadow over the holidays. Be supportive, even if you don’t share your child’s excitement over a particular gift or holiday ritual.
• Don’t try to regulate the use of a gift, saying this bicycle can only be used at Mom’s house or this game station is for Dad’s house only. Remember — the gift belongs to your child and he/she should be able to use it at both homes.
Finally, help your child make or purchase a special gift for his or her other parent, as well as extended family members, such as grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Doing so not only promotes your child’s relationship with the other parent, but it also shows that you respect that relationship as something special and important. Despite your feelings about your ex, it’s important not to diminish your child’s relationship with that person during the holidays — or any other time of the year.
Attorney Irwin M. Pollack is founder and lead attorney of Pollack Law Group, P.C. (PollackLawGroup.com) and a divorced father himself. He shares insights and information about co-parenting on his weekly radio talk show, Talking About Divorce, which can be heard weekends on WRKO in Boston (AM 680), WTAG in Worcester (AM 580/94.9 FM), WXTK on the Cape (95.1 FM), and WHYN in Springfield (AM 560).