As we approach the holidays, we’re looking forward to seeing the smiles and delight on our children’s faces as holiday gifts appear.

How do parents “co-parent” around holiday gifts? Or, do they? Or, should they?

Gift giving is a special expression of celebrating the season, ritual, family and values. Co-parents handle holiday gift-giving in a wide-variety of ways – and ideally, in the way that makes the most sense for their children and best reduces stress for all involved!

Some parents handle holiday gift-giving separately. However, they may have made agreements on each parent’s gift-giving budget to avoid feelings of competition – the worry of being upstaged or out spent – and a budget that reflects the values they hope to impart to their children regarding holiday spending.

Some parents will decide to pool resources for a particular gift they’d like the child to receive “from your parents!” This might be a bicycle for your six year old or a first lap-top for a high schooler. And certainly, this could mean some of both: pool for the lap-top and each of you will then get another small gift or two at your individual homes.

Some parents will come together for gift exchanges – as in “Santa gifts” on Christmas morning, or a children’s Hanukkah party, etc. This is typically a book-ended period of time, child-focused, and allows children to have their two-most-important-people there to share in their delight and surprise.

For others, initiating new holiday traditions and practices will not include the other parent. Children will be involved in deciding when to make cookies for hungry reindeer, and or where to place menorahs in their new home. What’s important, is that children feel secure, loved and free from responsibility to take care of parents. Time will be set aside during the season with each of their parents to exchange gifts and enjoy the Spirit of the Holidays in a memorable and loving way.

And lastly, each co-parent remembers to help their children prepare something special for their other parent. Teaching children how to honor and delight the one’s they love is a valuable lesson that is yours to impart to your children.

To recap important co-parenting considerations:

  • Gift-giving is a special expression of ritual and family. Children benefit when they feel secure, loved, and free from responsibility for taking care of parents’ feelings.
  • Co-parents avoid any sense of competition, up-staging, or attempting to create favoritism with their children through gift-giving. Co-parents might pool resources and/or establish budgets to help guide the children’s experience of two-home family gift giving.
  • Both parents will design special moments during the season to celebrate and impart important lessons/values of the season. Kids benefit when each parent helps their children remember to create something special for their other parent, too!