Whether it be birthdays, Christmas, Mother's Day or Father's Day, post Divorce, the issue of gift giving our ex spouses can sometimes be a minefield ! Do we ? Don't we? From us or from the children? Will it be well received? Will it offend?
You don't have to gift ex spouses gifts, but here are some reasons why it may be a good idea.
1. Buying Gifts for Your Ex-Spouse Helps Your children be children
If you help your child organise a gift/card/celebration in the same way you did before the divorce, it helps your child remain a child. The goal of all divorced parents is to help their children grow up feeling like a “normal” child. Providing this kind of help is an easy way to support that goal. You would never have expected your 5-year-old or 10-year-old (or even your teenaged) child to organise a celebration pre-divorce, so supporting them with these events takes a level of pressure off of them.
2. Buying Gifts for Your Ex-Spouse Keeps Your children out of the Middle
One of the biggest fears that children have after a divorce is that enjoying the company of parent hurts the other parent. By helping your child do something nice for your co-parent, you’re showing them that it’s ok to love and have fun with both parents.
3. Buying Gifts for Your Ex-Spouse Shows that Post-Divorce Parenting can be Positive
One of the key predictors of a child’s well-being after a divorce is the amount of conflict between their parents. The lower the conflict, the better it is for the children. However, parents can do more than just minimise conflict. When parents show their children that they can have positive moments with each other (e.g., be excited together about a football tournament, a good school report , a funny story), it makes their children’s lives even better. Positive post-divorce co-parenting is not merely the absence of negative co-parenting; sharing and contributing to holidays and special days (like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day) lets children feel like there is room for the positive.
4. Buying Gifts for Your Ex-Spouse Models Kindness
The best parenting advice that exists is to be the person you want your children to be. They are always watching you and when you model kindness and cooperative behaviour, they will notice. Helping your child celebrate your co-parent is a great way to model behaviour.
You and your co-parent will be at many of your children’s events over the years from sporting events and school functions to weddings. These events are much easier for your children (and their parents) when the relationshiop between the parents is an amiable one. There might be rough patches, but making goodwill gestures can help ease those difficult times.
5. Make sure the gift isn't Personal
A gift from you and your kids to your ex is also acceptable as long as it is not personal or gives the wrong impression. Lingerie is a BAD idea. Even a flannel nightgown is no good. Stick to plants, flowers, books, chocolates, sports equipment and candles. If you and your ex share children and are on friendly terms you may give or receive a gift that, again, does not give the wrong idea. Keep it impersonal. No perfume. No clothing. No diaries or mix CDs. A gift certificate to a book store, cooking or kitchen supplies or food are all good gifts.
6. Participating with a Generous Spirit will Shape how Your children
One key point is that if you’re going to keep buying gifts for your ex-spouse – and co-parent – you need to do it with a generous spirit. If you do it begrudgingly, your children will pick up on that. It also shifts over time; buying gifts isn’t an obligation you are entering into for the rest of your life.
It can be helpful to remember that your divorce will be part of your children’s narrative of their life and you can shape how they experience it. This is a small amount of time and money for a huge relationship payoff.
Not every family situation is the same and if you need some guidance about whether to gift to an ex spouse on a particular occasion don't hesitate to get in touch with Your Divorce Coach.