Christmas time for children of divorce can be either feast or famine. One of the challenges of divorce is the division of finances which often times leaves parents struggling. The gifts under the tree are fewer. The unfortunate disconnection from a parent may result in the child receiving holiday gifts from only one parent who may be struggling financially.
In some cases a child may get double gifts because the parents are competing with one another to see who can do the most for the child. I think the most money I ever spent on Christmas was the year I got a divorce. As I look back, I cant believe the money I spent. It was more than 4 Christmases combined.
My biggest expense was a new gaming system for my son complete with several games. When our children were younger, I was not very fond of gaming systems because they were very expensive. In fact I made my son pay for his first new system with the prize money he had won from selling the most items for the school fundraiser. For whatever reason, probably because of guilt, I bought it without blinking an eye. I guess I was trying to make up for the demise of our family by making him happy with things. My daughter wasn't into expensive things just yet but I spared no expense in making sure I spent a couple hundred dollars. I didn't even make my kids scour the sales catalogues like I normally did to list the things they wanted for Christmas along with what store had the best price.
To top it off I put a down payment on a spring break to can understand for the three of us to have a wonderful vacation. I was determined to make sure money wasn't an issue. Of course the kids made out like bandits because their dad bought them equally nice presents. I may have even convinced their dad to complement the gifts I had purchased.
The next year we both came to our senses and communicated about what we wanted our children to receive as Christmas gifts. I returned to the routine of giving the kids a reasonable budget and having them price out everything. To make sure we didn't try to outdo the other we made plans that both of us would be present when our children opened their gifts. What that meant was I had to get up at the crack of dawn call my ex to let him know I was on my way so that he could prepare for my visit. Our daughter was still at the age of believing in Santa clause so all her gifts needed to be at one location.
Once our kids woke up they knew that we had put aside our differences to give them s peaceful holiday that was not focused on us competing for their attention. We continued this tradition until I remarried. However we still discussed what we were going to purchase for our children.
The Disneyland phenomenon is when parents attempt to satisfy children by entertaining them constantly or spending excessively. Dads are usually the culprit especially when they are faced with what to do with the children during visitation weekend. Why worry about discipline and children complaining about being bored when you can go to the amusement park, to the movies, to the arcade or the mall.
Children are often quick to come up with a full weekend of take me buy me activities, especially when they complain about boredom. When I remarried and had my husband’s children on weekends spending a bunch of money on five children at a time was not an option. My hubby tried to keep up for as long as he could but finally realized he was losing the battle and running and spending like crazy. However we had to add more entertainment options to our home like a new home computer and other electronic games.
The same thing that happens on Christmas can happen on other special occasions like birthdays and graduations other special holidays. Make sure you are not trying to buy your children's affection and most of all not trying to compete with the other parent. Put your differences aside and agree to work together. It sets a great example for your children and working together can actually save you some money. Lastly it keeps your children from trying to get away with the great Christmas heist!!
Janice R Love, Author
First Lady, Mom, Stepmom and Divorce Ministry Coach