Gift Giving for Divorcing or Divorced Parents

by Norris Law Group on December 22, 2014

Gift giving can be a real challenge during or after a divorce. Some separated or divorced parents may try to “outdo” an ex-spouse by buying lots of extravagant gifts for their children. This may be out of a sense of guilt, or even to try to win the children’s favor. Rather than a loving gesture, gift giving becomes a “contest” between the parents. Rose Allen, an instructor at the University of Minnesota, says that this behavior is not a “gift” to your children at all, but is actually a “set-up” for overindulgence and even for bad behavior. Allen offers some suggestions about how divorced and divorcing parents can approach holiday gift giving.

  • Don’t criticize the gifts your ex gives to your children. This challenges your child’s sense of loyalty to his or her other parent, and may even keep a child from enjoying the gift because you don’t like it. This can undermine your child’s relationship with both you and your ex. Unless a gift is wildly inappropriate or dangerous in some way, try to be supportive of the gifts that your ex gives to your children.
  • Gifts meant for a specific household should stay there. If your children want to take gifts from one house to the other and it is easy to do so, they should be able to enjoy the gift at both homes, especially if the gift helps comfort your child. But if a gift—a pet, for example—is meant to stay at one house, keep it there consistently so the children know they can enjoy it in the proper context.
  • Discuss gifts your children can give to each of you with your ex. If you and your ex have a hard time communicating, provide some examples of how your children can give to you and/or your family. Some ideas might include cooking a special mean together, making personalized coupon books, or asking your children help create new holiday family traditions. Activities like these teach children that the thought and sentiment behind gifts are far more important how much gifts might cost.
  • Encourage your children to give gifts to your ex and to your ex’s family as well. If you have young children who might make gifts at school, speak with the teacher about whether it would be all right if your children make two things, so that each parent may receive a handmade Christmas ornament or snowflake.

Attorney Graham Norris and his associates at the Norris Law Group serve the residents of Utah County, UT and throughout Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and California. Contact them today at 801-932-1238 or online for a free consultation.

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