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What if you can’t compete with your co-parent on Christmas gifts?

What if you can’t compete with your co-parent on Christmas gifts?

The first Christmas after separation or divorce can be filled with all sorts of drama for parents. When kids are still young and presents (either from their parents or from Santa) are a big part of the holiday, things can get very competitive.

Ideally, you and your co-parent have agreed on a spending limit for individual gifts and a fair division for the cost of larger gifts you buy together. If your kids are anticipating a visit from Santa, he can come to both houses. 

Most co-parents, however, don’t have an ideal relationship. Whether because of guilt about the break-up, a need to be the more popular parent or a desire to show their ex they’re doing better financially, one parent too often becomes extremely competitive about Christmas presents.

You can control your reactions – even if you can’t control your ex

If you can’t convince your ex to be reasonable about their spending, you can control how you react – at least in front of your kids. If your co-parent buys your children expensive gifts (assuming that they’re not dangerous or wildly inappropriate), let your kids enjoy them – at both of their homes. Don’t make them feel guilty or like they can’t tell you about them.

Sure, extravagant presents can make a child’s eyes light up. Just keep in mind that by next year (and probably sooner), those gifts will have been lost, considered outdated or thrown aside out of boredom. A decade from now, they’re far more likely to remember the night they spent baking gingerbread cookies or driving around looking at Christmas decorations than the presents they received.

That may seem too long to wait for a payoff, and meanwhile, it can be very difficult to be outspent year after year. If the amount that you and your co-parent are able to spend on gifts (for Christmas, birthdays and other occasions) is unreasonably lopsided, you may want to seek a modification to your child support agreement that will allow you to make the gift-giving more equal.

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