The Co-Parents’ Guide to Holiday Gift Giving- Tips to Reduce Conflict and Stress.


Give Love, Great Gifts, and Avoid Stress.

  1. RULE #1. Leave the competitive spirit out of the holidays. Your gift to your child is about your love for them; it is not about how better you are than their other parent. Competing with your ex through gift-giving will do definite harm to your relationship with your child.  Teens especially see through this and, though they will accept your gift, they will also resent it. One tip to avoid this is to agree with your co-parent on the budget for gifts beforehand.

2.  Schedule with your co-parent a time where you go shopping with the children, (if that’s what you do) and/or a time for opening presents. Maybe this year you’ll open presents at your house on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day or maybe New Years. (Put all schedule arrangements in writing)

3. Have children create separate lists for each household. 

4. Share or Coordinate gifts. If a child wants a single expensive item, e.g., a computer, share the costs and make it a joint gift from Mom and Dad. Yes, divorced couples can still do that, and it sends a positive message to the kids. Or coordinate complimentary gifts. For example, if Amy wants the new Little Pet Shop Doll, one parent buys the doll and the other buys some related accessories.

5. Talk with each other on what you plan to buy and set a reasonable budget. Let the other parent know what you plan to buy so as to avoid duplication. If you set budgets for Christmas gifts, maximum of 100 per child, engage your parenting partner in that discussion.

Read Related :Gary Direnfeld  shares Four Strategies for Planning Spending This Christmas

6.  Take the high road and talk through potential conflicts about the appropriateness of gifts. If dad doesn’t think his 11 year old daughter is old enough to have a cell-phone please do not buy it for her without at least having that conversation with him. If there is a difference of opinion on the appropriateness of a gift engage the other parent to find out what are their concerns. If Molly had the cell-phone what are you afraid would happen? Listen to find out where the concerns lie, is it about how the gift affects her (distraction from schoolwork), the family (disconnection from family due to pre-occupation on cell with friends) or the parent (having to pay the bill)?  Maybe once to get to the core of the concern you can then brainstorm alternate strategies to reduce or eliminate these and find an agreeable solution. For example, maybe set mutually agreed upon rules about how the gift will be used at each home, e.g., turn off the cell phone at meal times.  If no mutually agreeable solution is forthcoming, it is also possible to limit that gift to the supporting parent’s house. So, when Molly visits Dad she leaves the cell-phone at your house. #kids

    Read Related:      How to Reduce Conflict at Family Gatherings

7.   Offer yourself as a gift. Don’t substitute a material gift for your time and presence.  Children love gifts but they love time with their parents more. Don’t get so caught up with making the new traditions so great  (cooking, decorating, etc) that you forget to connect with each of your children. #parenting

These are just some of my ideas, I am interested in finding out:

  • What types of conflicts have you had with your co-parent about gift-giving and how you were able to resolve them?
  • What other strategies would you suggest to other co-parents regarding the holidays?
  • What is one thing a co-parent should avoid over the holidays?

Holiday Gift Giving Quote

Whatever  gift arrangements you make as a parent/co-parent, remember the holidays are a time to create happy memories that will last a lifetime for you and your children,  the gifts are often just seasonal. HAPPY HOLIDAYS.  (parenting tips, fights with ex, kids holidays)

FOLLOW us into the new year for F R E  E resources to help you build a happy, healthy family all year long.

Bonus Gift Video: 4 Ways to Survive the Holidays After Recent Divorce.  (2min)

8 Apps That Make Post-Divorced Parenting A Bit Easier – Huffington Post Divorce

Recommended Reading: Moms House, Dads House – Isollina RicciParenting Book for Cooperative Coparenting for Divorced Families

Paperback :

Kindle Version:

Help for Families Canada offers counselling for children adjusting through separation or divorce and for parents seeking to build a ‘new’ relationship with their children. Also available is coaching for co-parents (Read more : eg. Parenting Classes Personalised Parenting Coaching )

Published by Help For Families Canada

Help for Families Canada is a counselling and consulting organisation serving Edmonton, locally, and families, globally. We specialise in offering child and family therapy for kids and parents via play therapy interventions.

4 thoughts on “The Co-Parents’ Guide to Holiday Gift Giving- Tips to Reduce Conflict and Stress.

  1. What do you do about a child wanting to buy gifts for their divorced parents? Our 9 year old want to buy her father something and wants to buy me something as well. Do I give her money to purchase something for her father? Don’t really want to do that but want don’t want wo quash her desire to give him something. Conversely, I told her I just wanted a pair of mittens and a scarf. Something under $20 because I don’t want my ex paying for it.

  2. Thanks Pattie for asking a very real and practical question, I know other families will appreciate your courage. Firstly, in regards to you buying a gift for her Daddy as well I would explain that when you and Daddy’s relationship changed you moved out of each other’s gift-giving circle. You may something like… “We have lots of friends, family, and nice neighbours, but we don’t invite them all to our birthday parties. Only a few special people get included in special events. Christmas is a special event, where we buy special gifts for the most special people. You are the most special person for Daddy and I; but since Daddy and I are no longer together, we moved off each other list of special people to give gifts to. This year and from now on, I won’t be buying Daddy a present. I hope you are going to be okay with that.” At 9 years old she should be able to understand this from your perspective but, continue to assure her of your mutual commitment to her over the holidays.
    Secondly, I think it is quite good and reasonable for a child to want to buy a present for both their parents. But, sorry because she is a minor, you the parents are her financial source. Setting a budget limit is a good idea. Depending on your relationship with the co-parent, maybe you can agree to this together. Alternately you could each independently give her money to buy your own present (e.g. $20), maybe with the optional wish- gifts within the range (offer 2-3 options to allow for issue of availability, preference, etc). However you may also anticipate for her to ask you to take her shopping too (as many 9 year old girls love to do). This you may have to grin and bear, like you would shopping for her girlfriends’ birthday parties too. 😀
    Hope that helps. Enjoy your holidays with your daughter. She sounds like a kind and generous gem.

  3. Hello, I read yoyr new stuff like every week. Youur writing style is witty, keep doing what you’re doing!

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