Dear KID-EASE: Holiday gift giving is a big problem between me and my ex husband. He buys them big, expensive gifts and I can’t afford to compete with him. What can I do? I think my kids feel that what they receive at my home is not good enough. Signed, Worried
Dear Worried, I can absolutely understand why you are feeling this anxiety because you are feeling that you are part of a competition. Is your ex willing to talk with you about this issue? If not would he come to a Child Therapist to discuss way to begin “Cooperative Gift Giving” with you.
I have found that holidays and gift giving are often felt to be a sport of competition, however the most secure kids (and adults) in divorced families are the ones whose parents give gifts wrapped and labeled from “Mommy and Daddy”! This cooperative gift giving allows for each parent to contribute a reasonable, negotiable amount; it is not important that one parent gives a bit more and one parent may give a bit less. The focus is on unity. The kids are asked to create lists of wishes that parents discuss and see which ones are the best choices to fulfill.
One parent can do the wrapping/labeling if he or she contributes less to level the playing field. Kids are joyful to know that Mom and Dad picked out the gifts as a unified front and there are no comparisons of best or better — just the joy of receiving. And don’t forget to add as gifts a pack of homemade coupons for a special night-time chapter book reading by the parent, lots of hugs and kisses, helping the parent prepare dinner, going on a nature walk… or… anything that would be appropriate for your families’ interests. There is much joy in these coupons as they are homemade and offer special times or simple events that children love to redeem with you both.
This year try to focus on cooperation to help your children of divorced families feel a sense of wholeness. This is the goal!