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Gift giving mistakes that too many divorced parents make

Holiday gift giving can be a minefield for divorced parents and their children. Some kids might view receiving two sets of presents as one of the few upsides of their parents' divorce. However, if parents don't handle their gift giving in a mature and unselfish way, they can create highly stressful, unhappy situations for their kids. Following are a couple of situations to avoid.

Competing to give the best gifts. Too many divorced parents try to outdo each other — either to compete for their children's love or to try to make their co-parent look bad. That can be particularly difficult if one parent has less money than the other.

If you can't get your co-parent to agree to keep their gifts in the same price range as yours, consider doing something special with your kids instead. Years from now, they'll likely remember a day baking cookies and watching their favorite Christmas movies more than the new tablet their other parent bought them (which will be obsolete by next year anyway).

Making rules about where gifts can be used. Unfortunately, when one parent outdoes the other one, the parent who didn't buy the latest American Girl doll or PlayStation video game sometimes tells their child they'll have to keep it at their other parent's home. While it might be painful to see your child playing with something you couldn't afford to get them (or didn't think of), why punish them? Kids should be able to enjoy all their toys and belongings wherever they are. If you take an interest in it, that's more time spent with your child.

Not helping kids with your co-parent's gift: Depending on your kids' ages, you may need to help them buy or make a present for your co-parent — and maybe help them wrap it. Remember, you're doing this for your kids and not your ex. The kids likely want to give both of you something special.

Even if your co-parent doesn't reciprocate and you end up empty-handed, at least you know you've done the right thing. Next year, your co-parent may do the same.

If holiday, birthday and other gifts are becoming a serious problem that you can't resolve with your co-parent, you may want to talk to your family law attorney about a potential modification to your child custody and/or support agreements.

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