It should be a goal to make every divorce an amicable one. It is with this spirit we answer this question: yes, yes, yes. Want to give a lump of coal to the ex for Christmas? Don’t. Take the high ground. It’s about your children and their love for the other parent, it’s not about you and your ex’s relationship.
Bonnie Ross, an Oregon-based family and child therapist, offered some tips to ParentDish in an article about this topic. First, she suggests, “Make the event planning and purchase an adventure of fun.” By all means, make the children a part of the gift-picking process, but consider it an opportunity to teach them how to make good shopping decisions. Remember, it doesn’t need to be an expensive gift, just a thoughtful one.
If children have the means to earn their own money, let them chip in or buy the ex’s gift themselves, if possible. Set a price, and before the shopping trip explore the possibilities with your children and get their ideas. Sometimes money is an issue, or purchasing a gift for an ex may not be received as intended (if the receiving parent sees it as a negative ex thing, that can destroy a child’s good feelings about giving it). If this is the case, it’s always a safe bet for parents to get a handmade gift or card. A helping hand might be called for; after all, it’s an act of love, and supporting your children will make it an even better experience for them.
After a divorce, holidays can be tremendously difficult, both for you and for your children. Christmas is a magical time for kids—family holiday traditions are important. Don’t let your divorce rob them of this special time. Divorce wasn’t their choice; they should not suffer because you and your ex can’t move past the anger and hurt. Rise to the challenge, keep the magic strong, give them memories they can cherish and hold on to. Put the children first, no matter how hard that may be.
If you are the new spouse with stepchildren, it’s the perfect opportunity to spend time with the stepkids and get to know them better, and for them to do the same with you. Showing that you care about their relationship with an absentee parent is a great step to a better relationship with them. Don’t let insecurities, such as jealousy of an ex, rob you of this chance to be supportive and strengthen your bond with them.
Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, Christmas … it can be a long list of challenges through the year. Are there other children or financial considerations that need to be taken into account? When you were married, what kind of traditions did you observe for giving gifts then? If you only gave gifts for certain occasions when married, don’t let your divorce make you feel obligated to do so now. And if the ex isn’t as equally thoughtful and reciprocation isn’t forthcoming, don’t feel slighted—remember, it’s about the kids, not you or the ex spouse. Take the high road and you’ll be glad you did in years to come.