Christmas is a time of year that is usually very family orientated. Family members get together from across the country to spend some quality time together, share in some good cheer and exchange gifts. For families where the parents are separated it can be a difficult time, especially if the relationship is strained and there are difficulties arranging time for both parents to spend time with their children. We wrote a blog about this last year which shares the experience of a first Christmas after separation, it details some ideas of how the time can be divided up. You can read this blog here.
In this blog we wanted to explore more about the issue of gift giving, as this can be complicated for divorced or separated families particularly if the communication has broken down.
Presents for the Children
You could easily have an organised conversation about what you both, as parents, want to give your children. This would eliminate confusion and avoid a situation where you both buy a child the same gift!
If it seemed appropriate you could club together and still buy a joint gift from ‘mum and dad’. This would reinforce a positive message that you both still love your child, despite your own differences and separation.
If one parent will not be seeing the children on Christmas day, be sure to arrange a special time for the children to see that parent close to Christmas so that the gifts can be exchanged face to face. Ideally if you can manage it, why not allow your ex to come over for an hour on Christmas morning to see the kids open their presents.
Negatives to avoid:
Unfortunately, not all separated parents can get on with each other, not even for the sake of the children which is very sad. But if this is the case for you and your ex, try to avoid the following:
Don’t involve or use the children as a way to get back at your ex by denying access or preventing messages, phone calls and gifts to be passed on. This has a very negative effect on the children and you are only hurting them.
Don’t get involved with a ‘one up manship’ on gift giving. Don’t try to ‘out do’ your ex-partner by buying a massive and ridiculously expensive gift for your child. Your children, depending on age, will probably not appreciate its great monetary value and would much rather have time with you. Over compensating with expensive gifts is never a replacement for actually being there for your child emotionally and putting their needs first.
Presents for each other
Well this is a bit of a strange one, but it needs to be thought about carefully, as the children’s emotions and feelings are at stake. Your children will undoubtedly want to give a gift from themselves to both their parents.
Help your children to choose a gift for your ex, it doesn’t have to be much, but something they want to give. This will make the children feel good, they love both of their parents and would want to give something from them. You could agree between you an amount that you will spend with the children avoiding embarrassment if one was much more expensive.
If money is tight, you could help your children to make something for your ex. The process of making something is positive for the kids (Even if you hate the process, put your feelings aside for the sake of your children).
Negatives to avoid:
Refusing to help your children buy and deliver a present from them to your ex will upset and confuse them. It is particularly important not to use any negative language about your ex, for example, just an off the cuff remark like: “I’m not getting anything for that useless man, he never gets me anything!” is incredibly damaging.
If the separation is a bit new and raw, it might be tempting to do something spiteful like never deliver the gift or buy them something they hate. DO NOT do this, control yourself for the sake of your children.
Have a Happy Christmas
Whatever your situation and however much sadness or hate you feel towards an ex, try to hide it from your children, especially around Christmas. Christmas is a time for children, make their Christmas a happy one!
And a Happy Christmas from all of us at Progressive Mediation!