For those who celebrate Christmas, this time of year can be particularly stressful for separated and divorced parents. One of the biggest stressors is gifts.
Many parents go over the top on lavish gifts for their children because they feel guilty about the divorce or not being there for them as much as they used to be. Others are more interested in outdoing their co-parent in their quest to be the favorite parent or simply to “one-up” and annoy their ex.
How can you rein in the outlandish gift-giving?
Maybe your co-parent has done this in the past. or perhaps this is your first holiday season apart and you suspect this will be their strategy. There are things you can do – or at least try – to keep the gift-giving appropriate for your child’s age (and your finances).
You can recommend a spending limit for each parent when it comes to individual gifts. If there’s something pricey that your child needs (or really wants), you can suggest going in on it together and having it come from both of you (or Santa). It’s also wise to coordinate your gifts so that you don’t both buy the same presents. You may need to remind your co-parent that it’s important to focus on what’s best for your child – not what will impress them.
Parents should always agree to let their kids play with or use their gifts in whichever home they choose – or bring them between homes if it’s something that’s easily packable. Too many parents tell their kids they have to keep a gift at “their” house since they bought it.
What if the overspending continues?
If your ex insists on spending more than you can afford or think is appropriate, there’s not much you can do about it besides letting your child enjoy the gifts. Likely, they won’t even remember them next year. Most of our memories of the holidays as adults revolve around simple holiday traditions rather than the gifts we received.
If your co-parent continues their extravagant spending on holiday, birthday and other gifts for your child, you may want to consider seeking a modification of your child support agreement (whether you’re the one receiving or paying). You may also want to address gift-giving in your parenting plan.