The holiday season post-divorce can be both a joyous and contentious time of the year. Decide for yourself which one you would like to have in advance of the holiday season – while you are still rational and stress is under control. This will be an important decision when you will be confronted with holiday-centric choices.
When indecisive, ask yourself if you are following the joyous or contentious path. Being consistent with your own wishes will allow you to enjoy the season and set a good example for your child. You are modeling behaviour for your children even when you think they are not paying attention. Gifts display our attunement to the recipient, originality, effort and intentions. Keep this in mind when you are shopping with your child.
Remember you are a parent first and a divorcee second. Holidays offer us an opportunity to give and receive gifts. For most children, this is the time of the year they are excited about the most. The majority of elementary schools allocate time for children to create gifts for their parents. Your little ones might want to augment these gifts with additional purchases. This is where things get tricky since they don’t have funds nor transportation of their own; they might still ask or expect the other parent to take them holiday shopping. Most likely that has been a tradition in the home during the time the family was intact. Use this as a teaching moment between you and your child by showing them how to budget – infusing your son or daughter with confidence with their taste, and help them understand their parent’s preferences.
As a parent, you might be torn between indulging your child by purchasing the gift of their choosing for their parent and rejecting that idea based on the anger you have for your ex-spouse. Thoughts of “Will (s)he do that for me?” or “I am not giving her/him one more penny!” might come into play. Take a deep breath and step out of the ex-spouse role and back into mommy/daddy mode. As your child’s parent, what is the best solution?
In anticipation of this situation, many parents set up a bank account to be funded jointly and used for the child’s expenses. Gifts, not just for holidays but also for birthdays, should be included in these budgets. Second option: if your children receive an allowance, you might want to increase it for the holidays or other times of the year and allow them to decide how to allocate their funds. The third option is to pay for the gifts out-of-pocket and to avoid resentment by compartmentalizing the expense as part of your general holiday budget – as opposed to one more thing your are doing for your ex. Last option is deciding in advance that gifts will be limited to the child and that parents should only expect gifts from the child that they can make instead of buy.
Remember that your ultimate goal is to infuse your child with positive holiday memories. When they grow up they will most likely not remember exactly who gave what to whom but the general sentiment of the gift exchange process. Create wonderful, peaceful and generous moments with your loved kids that they will pass on to their own families.