The holiday season can be a stressful time for divorced co-parents who are competitive about being the “best” or “favorite” parent. Even if you know that isn’t healthy, maybe your co-parent can’t resist trying to outdo you at every turn.
That sense of competition ramps up big time when Christmas or Hanukkah rolls around and gifts are involved as well as winter vacation adventures. You may find yourself stepping up to try to outdo your ex by giving your kids expensive gifts or reserving a week at a ski lodge.
If your budget doesn’t let you compete with your co-parent, you understandably feel angry and resentful, and the kids likely notice those feelings. They may feel guilty or even try to hide their presents from their other parent.
It’s important to remember that children’s love generally can’t be bought – at least not for long. Often, the parent who makes the extravagant gestures is compensating for not being in their children’s lives as much as the other parent. In the long run, your kids will remember and appreciate the times you helped them with a school project or showed up to every track meet after they’ve forgotten the new phone their other parent bought them.
Let your kids enjoy their presents from their other parent. Let them know they’re welcome to play with them or use them when they’re staying with you. Don’t make them leave these things at their other home because they remind you of what you can’t buy them. (Your ex shouldn’t require the kids to keep the gifts at their home, either.)
Don’t make excuses about the gifts you give your kids or compare them to what their other parent got them. If you’re excited about a gift, chances are that they will be, too.
Consider talking to your co-parent about putting a limit on individual gifts that you give your children and to split the cost of expensive presents. The split doesn’t have to be 50-50 if that’s too much for one of you.
If your co-parent isn’t agreeable to that kind of arrangement and continues to spoil the kids with gifts to the point where you truly believe that it’s not in their best interests, you may want to consider adding some provisions to your parenting plan regarding gifts. Talk with your attorney to see how they advise you to proceed.