For some families that have gone through a divorce, the holiday season is a time when ex-spouses may compete for their children’s attention and affection. Especially for Georgia parents that have shared parenting time, it can be difficult to pick your child up from your former spouse’s house to discover his or her other parent has bought the toy you couldn’t. All too often, these competitions can take the form of trying to buy the children more expensive or elaborate presents than the other parent can afford.

While some ex-spouses understand how such competition can be destructive to good relations, they may not know what the appropriate response is if their former husband or wife decides to compete on presents anyways. When these competitions happen, however, the usual victims end up being the children in the middle.

Parents who are unable to afford to give their children expensive gifts for Christmas have nothing to feel guilty about. While everyone wants to give their children nice gifts around the holidays, it is more important to give them good memories of a special time filled with sharing and family values.

A parent who understands how destructive gift competition can be can simply decline to compete. A fight over gifts will only injure the children who may mistakenly believe that the fight was all their fault.

Children are able to understand what is going on, and should be talked to frankly. Rather than underestimating children’s understanding or maturity, a parent can try to communicate directly with them about the issue. They will understand that a parent who has less money cannot get them expensive presents, but loves them just the same.

Parents should focus the children’s attention on making long-lasting holiday memories and fun, family activities, not on material things. Although children may not appreciate it right away, they will understand, sooner or later, that those memories will stay with them long after a shiny, new toy has been discarded.

Source: The Huffington Post, “When Your Ex Goes Overboard at Christmas,” Marie Hartwell Walker, Dec. 9, 2011