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Coordinate, Don’t Compete With Your Ex When it Comes to Christmas Presents

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As a kid, is there anything better than waking up Christmas morning and finding exactly what you want under the tree? In my house, Christmas morning was a real showstopper—my parents always knew how to make me lose my mind. I’d spend hours playing with my new toys in a state of gleeful, giddy holiday bliss.

As a parent now, I want my daughter to experience this same feeling. That’s why I start Christmas shopping reconnaissance early. I’m always on the lookout for something she’ll absolutely love—whether it’s a Frozen II play set this year or the Hatchimals craze from 2018. My mission is simple: Make Christmas Day the best day of the year for my daughter.

But since my ex and I separated, I’ve learned something. If I go all-in on the Christmas presents, my ex isn’t able to give our daughter the same experience. Imagine dad giving you a car for Christmas and mom following up with floor mats. It’s not really fair. And, it’s even more unfair when separated parents use presents as a form of leverage, giving the end-all, be-all gift to curry favor. It’s not in the spirit of Christmas or a show of good parenting, and it can be divisive. That’s why my ex and I collaborate, instead of competing. We both want to see our daughter’s eyes light up on Christmas, so we work together to make it happen for her.

Coordinating the perfect present

Over the years, we’ve collaborated on a few pretty great gifts. Working together to plan gifts is actually a lot easier than you might think—you just need to have a theme and coordinate your efforts. And, you need to do it in a way that evokes the same level of excitement and appreciation for both gifts.

Consider what a friend of mine did a couple years ago for his son. He bought him a Nintendo Switch for Christmas, which included one game. His son was elated to get the gaming system and couldn’t wait to get more games for it. As it turned out, the kid was about to get his wish. When he went to mom’s house for Christmas the next day, he tore open three more games—including two they knew he wanted. Cue the elation yet again!

The two-part gift is a great way to get both parents involved—especially for a gift that’s expensive. There’s also thematic gifts to consider. For example, my daughter goes bananas over Frozen, so my ex and I are both doing Frozen gifts. She’s getting a big play set from me and costumes and dolls from my ex. It all comes together in a very Frozen Christmas for my daughter.

If you’re not on great terms with your ex or they’re not willing to coordinate, that’s okay. At the very least, set some parameters for gift giving. Setting a dollar amount or a specific number of presents can help balance out the effort. Make sure you’re not buying the same things, too.

Remember the spirit of Christmas

For kids, Christmas is all about the presents. As adults, we know it runs deeper than that. It’s about taking time to appreciate what we have and who we share it with. In the spirit of both worlds, make sure you’re cooperating with your ex when it comes to gift giving, not competing with them.

I know my daughter is going to go wild when she opens her presents this year, and I’m going to love the reaction she has. I’m sure my ex will appreciate the same feeling. There’s no reason my daughter shouldn’t get to relive the joy of opening presents with both mom and dad.


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