How to Help your Kids Cope During the Holidays: Avoid trying to "Out-Santa" each otherAfter a divorce, getting along with your ex at the holidays can be a stressful situation especially when you have kids.  Dividing up the time with your ex-spouse during the holidays is always a challenge, making a schedule for spending time with the children that is equitable not only for both parents but the extended family, is a huge task.  One thing that most divorced parents fail to think about is taking a cooperative approach to gift giving where the kids are concerned.

Avoid trying to “Out-Santa” each other when it comes to giving gifts to your children.  Dr. Ruth Peters writes in a recent article, “the holidays are about family, love and some presents — it shouldn’t be a materialistic free-for-all.” Unfortunately, in separated or divorced families, the focus is all too often misplaced onto the gifts. Dr. Peters recommends that such families consider and coordinate the gift-giving, and she stresses that cooperation is the key.

The following will explore ways to avoid the gift giving competition, have a loving and happy holiday season, all while avoiding the urge to “Out-Santa” your ex.

The Guilt – As a parent, the holiday gift giving season is primarily about your kids not you.  Frequently parents feel guilty about how hard the divorce has been on the kids. Now and then we may react to that guilt by overloading our children with gifts during the holidays. It is important to avoid at all costs the “gift competition” with your ex.  Also avoid purchasing gifts for your kids out of spite that you know your ex wouldn’t approve of or want in their home.

No Strings Gifts – Avoid giving gifts to you kids and expecting or demanding were the new gift is kept.  Let you children decide where they want to keep the gift.  A perfect example of this is Dad buys the kids a new PlayStation 4 and requires that it stays at his house even though the kids live with their mother.  The idea, unconsciously or not, is that the kids will want to spend more time with Dad since the game console is at his house.  This is not only unfair to the kids but is just bad form.

Communication – Meet with your ex and discuss the upcoming holiday season.  You likely have to communicate with them on some level in order to work out who will see the kids when.  Take the time to talk about what each child wants and what you each would like to give as gifts to the kids.  It’s a good idea to divide up the kids’ wish list so you are not duplicating a gift.  Make a promise to each other that you will not disclose to the kids what each of you is getting them.

Really Big Gifts – There will likely be a time in your child’s life when you or your ex will want to give a big gift.  These “big” gifts can range from bicycles, computers, expensive electronics or even cars.  Be sure to discuss the big gift with your ex.  Often times both parents will want to pitch in together to purchase the big gift.  Be sure to let the kids know that the big gift is from the both of you so your kids don’t think that one parents gives bigger, better gifts than the other.

Focus on the Meaning – It is important to focus on the meaning of the holidays and not the gift giving portion.  The holidays are supposed to be full of excitement, joy and anticipation.  Even though your family is not together in the traditional sense, you should still focus on providing as much joy and love where your kids are concerned.  In ten years from now your kids will forget who bought them what during the holidays but they will surely remember with fondness that even though their parents were divorced, they never had to endure a bad holiday season.

It’s all too easy to turn the holidays into a chance to show up your ex by buying your kids the “bigger” or “better” or more expensive gift.  You cannot buy your child’s love with gifts.  Buying your child a thoughtful or meaningful gift will mean more to them and is the best way to celebrate the holidays.  Trying to win an undefined competition with your ex will in no way benefit your child.

By following the tips mentioned above you will be able to help your kids cope during the holidays and help you and your ex avoid trying to “Out-Santa” each other.

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