There are a lot of questions that divorced couples may have as they’re facing the holidays, and many of them deal with scheduling parenting time and managing their kids’ experiences. A big part of managing those experiences, of course, has to do with gift-giving. It seems like an action that should be pretty simple: buy your child a gift, and your child will be happy…but as with many things with divorced parents, it can bring about unexpected tensions, and it’s not always as easy as it seems.
We came upon a helpful article (on a site specializing in mediation, interestingly enough) that covered this issue in some detail. The article began with some good, basic advice — make sure that you and your ex are on the same page about where gifts are coming from. If your kids are young enough for Santa to still be a factor, of course, you’ll want to figure out which presents are coming from Santa and which are coming from each of you.
This will also help you make sure that your children have good gifts coming from each house, since one parent will celebrate Christmas with the kids and the other will celebrate a “second Christmas” once parenting time shifts over. More importantly, this will ensure that you and your ex aren’t getting your child the same gift — always an awkward moment for everyone involved!
One of the most thought-provoking passages covered the idea of competing to see who can provide the most lavish present. The author wrote, “Never make this a competition with your ex over who can give the best and/or most expensive gift. Establishing a budget can help prevent holiday gift-giving from devolving into a competition. But you should also proactively discuss this issue with your ex and agree on some ‘noncompete’ guidelines.”
This is important for a couple of reasons.
First, it’s very possible, especially if you’re recently divorced, that you and your ex don’t have as much of a budget for Christmas presents as you did while you were married. You should make an allotment for gifts that works for your budget, and work to stick to that. You certainly shouldn’t spend so much on gifts, for instance, that you can’t afford all the child support you owe the next month.
Second, it might send the wrong message to your children, who are already seeking assurance that both parents love them and care for them even though they’re no longer a couple. Kids could potentially construe that one parent “loves them more” based on the presents they buy.
As we often say to divorcing and divorced parents, your choices should be based on what’s best for your children. We encourage you to do what you can to communicate and cooperate. But we also know that conflicts arise, even for couples who are trying to manage through divorces but who might find their divorce decree no longer works for them.
That’s where the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance can help. Though we don’t anticipate you needing to write a holiday budget into a modified decree, we can talk you through what’s in your current decree, what works or doesn’t work there, and how we can help you go about changing it.