With Mother’s Day just past us and Father’s Day right around the corner, it’s a good time to consider what obligations divorced parents have in helping their children celebrate their co-parent/former spouse – not just for these days but also for occasions such as holidays and birthdays – including buying gifts for your ex-spouse on behalf of the children you share.
You certainly don’t have to continue helping your kids with these celebrations, but here are five reasons why you should consider it.
1. Buying Gifts for Your Ex-Spouse Helps Your Kids be Kids
If you help your child organize a gift/card/celebration in the same way you did before the divorce, it helps your child remain a kid. The goal of all divorced parents is to help their children grow up feeling like a “normal” kid. Providing this kind of help is an easy way to support that goal. You would never have expected your 5-year-old or 10-year-old (or even your teenaged) child to organize a celebration pre-divorce, so supporting them with these events takes a level of pressure off of them.
2. Buying Gifts for Your Ex-Spouse Keeps Your Kids out of the Middle
One of the biggest fears that children have after a divorce is that enjoying the company of parent hurts the other parent. By helping your child do something nice for your co-parent, you’re showing them that it’s ok to love and have fun with both parents.
3. Buying Gifts for Your Ex-Spouse Shows that Post-Divorce Parenting can be Positive
One of the key predictors of a child’s well-being after a divorce is the amount of conflict between their parents. The lower the conflict, the better it is for the kids. However, parents can do more than just minimize conflict. When parents show their kids that they can have positive moments with each other (e.g., be excited together about a soccer goal, a good grade, a funny story), it makes their kids’ lives even better. Positive post-divorce co-parenting is not merely the absence of negative co-parenting; sharing and contributing to holidays and special days (like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day) lets children feel like there is room for the positive.
4. Buying Gifts for Your Ex-Spouse Models Kindness
The best parenting advice that exists is to be the person you want your children to be. They are always watching you and when you model kindness and cooperative behavior, they will notice. Helping your child celebrate your co-parent is a great way to model behavior.
You and your co-parent will be at many of your kid’s events over the years from sporting events and school functions to graduations and weddings. These events are much easier for your children (and their parents) when the relationship between the parents is an amiable one. There might be rough patches, but making goodwill gestures can help ease those difficult times.
5. Participating with a Generous Spirit will Shape how Your Kids Experience Divorce
One key point is that if you’re going to keep buying gifts for your ex-spouse – and co-parent – you need to do it with a generous spirit. If you do it begrudgingly, your children will pick up on that. It also shifts over time; buying gifts isn’t an obligation you are entering into for the rest of your life.
It can be helpful to remember that your divorce will be part of your children’s narrative of their life and you can shape how they experience it. This is a small amount of time and money for a huge relationship payoff.