The winter season plays host to numerous cultural and religious holidays that celebrate the concepts of “family” and “togetherness.” Many recently divorced parents paste on bright smiles, whip out their credit cards, and struggle to make this season a special experience for their children. What they don’t realize is that their children can’t wait for December to be over.
The Gift-Giving Battleground
Most parents have the best of intentions when it comes to buying presents for their children. After all, who doesn’t enjoy watching their child’s face light up on Christmas morning? After a divorce, you may feel compelled to spend a little extra to make up for your child’s change in circumstances. For example, maybe your kid has been eying the new Nintendo Switch for the last six months. Money has been a little tight since the divorce, so you consider calling your ex to split the costs. Your fingers dance on a familiar phone number, but you ultimately hesitate to make the call. You don’t want to deal with your ex, and why should you share the credit for your great idea?
In a best-case scenario, your child gets a great gift, and all is right with the world. But what happens if you and your ex have the same idea and now your child has two portable game systems? If one of you had contacted the other, you may have been able to save money or even coordinated your presents. One parent could have purchased the system while the other bought a couple games for your child to play. In a worst-case scenario, your ex feels hurt and complains that you’re intentionally competing with him or her by buying your child’s affection. This unintentional slight can turn into a gift-giving war that persists for years and permanently damages your co-parenting relationship.
To help you navigate the perils of gift-giving, our West Des Moines child custody attorneys have compiled the following tips to get you through the holiday season:
- Adopt a No Compete Rule: The first rule of gift-giving as a co-parent is to avoid the “my gift is better than your gift” trap. While they may receive some neat gifts, children don’t actually benefit when their parents try to outdo each other. If anything, children feel guilty and have trouble enjoying their presents. Plus, continually buying your kid the “best gift ever” can get pretty pricey over the years. You’re going to feel incredibly awkward when that expensive present inevitably starts collecting dust. Instead of competing with your ex, you can focus on making important and lasting holiday memories with your child. For example, you can start new traditions like baking cookies, having movie marathons, or decorating your home. These are the true memories your children are going to cherish. And if there is an expensive present your child really wants, you need to be able to call your ex and discuss the matter civilly. You may not receive the response you want, but it still counts as an effort made. Besides, if it works out, your child can enjoy the present fully while you and your ex save a little money.
- The Gift Travels Is Allowed to Travel with Your Kid: You may spend a lot of time planning the perfect gift, but you can’t expect your child to only enjoy it at your home. Children tend to travel with their favorite toys, and your special gift may wind up living at your ex’s. Sadly, many parents create restrictions that prevent a child from enjoying their present full-time. While it’s great to always have toys available at your home, you shouldn’t prevent your child from playing with their gift as they see fit.
- Avoid Undermining Your Ex: There may be times when you and your ex disagree about certain gifts. Even though you’re divorced, you’re still co-parents, and you need to work together to raise your child. You can keep this relationship amicable by not ignoring your ex’s opinions and concerns. If you buy a present the other parent doesn’t feel is appropriate, you may ruin your relationship and make the other parent look like the “bad guy.”
The Issue of Reciprocation
Unfortunately, you can abide by these tips and still have an ex who chooses to completely ignore your efforts. If your ex isn’t interested in discussing gifts or coordinating a holiday schedule, you need to do whatever you can to make sure your child has a great holiday. Again, this doesn’t mean intentionally buying gifts to outdo your ex, but they can’t complain about your present choices when they refuse to have any input in the process.
Have Questions? Have Child Custody Concerns? Schedule a Consultation Today!
It’s incredibly difficult for recently divorced parents to navigate that first holiday season. If your ex isn’t abiding by the terms of your custody agreement, you can seek legal representation by calling the West Des Moines child custody attorneys at The Law Offices of Mark R. Hinshaw. We can evaluate your circumstances and help you maintain a positive child custody situation for your child.
Call The Law Offices of Mark R. Hinshaw at (515) 200-7571 to schedule a consultation.