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Holidays and gifts: Tips for working with your co-parent

You made it through your divorce and you have a good parenting plan in place. It clearly addresses the holiday schedule, and you’ve been open to negotiations with your ex-spouse for special events. You’re determined that the holidays will be bright for the kids, despite your marital split.

You might want to discuss holiday gifts with your co-parent, however. When divorced parents don’t clearly communicate their thoughts and expectations toward each other when it comes to holiday gifts, it can lead to misunderstandings, confusion and a lot of frustration — especially for the kids.

Here’s what you should talk about now (before the shopping starts):

  • Who is giving the gifts? If the kids still believe in Santa, for example, will Santa leave presents at one house or two? The two of you should have an agreement for handling this particular issue when your children are small.
  • What’s the budget? This can get tricky if one parent is a big spender and the other is more conservative. It helps to have a budget in place that won’t put you and your ex in competition with each other for your children’s affections.
  • Are there any conditions? From a child’s perspective, it’s no fun to be given a gift that has to remain exclusively at one parent’s house. Unless there’s a good reason, your children should be free to take their new game system from one house to the other during visitation. You should also address any rules that may be placed on cash presents or gift cards, so there’s no disputes later.
  • Should some gifts be jointly purchased? Maybe one of your children really wants an iPad for digital art — and you’re all for it. That’s a big gift, however, so it may be wisest to share the expense with your co-parent. (That may also eliminate any sense of competitiveness between you.)
  • Is it wise to coordinate your purchases? You don’t want your child to get two of everything, so talk over their “wish lists” with your ex and decide what each of you will buy to avoid duplications.

Effective co-parenting takes some co-operation, and the holidays can (sometimes) bring out the worst in people. If your ex seems intent on sabotaging your parenting plan, it may be time to review your legal options.