christmas gifts

Christmas gift giving

Gift giving at Christmas time and other occasions such as birthdays can be stress inducing at the best of times.  If you’re a divorced or separated parent, chances are it is even more so.  Although most people focus on what their children want or need, for some, present buying may be seen as an opportunity to play ‘favourite parent’ or score points against their ex.

The subject of parents having differing budgets, ideas of what is a suitable gift or competing to give their children the most impressive gift is one that we hear time and again. Unfortunately, when emotions and resentments get in the way of gift giving, it is often the children that suffer.

This Christmas, our aim is to make the whole present less stressful and more about the spirit of giving.

Have a Christmas gift agreement

Where possible, coming to an agreement with your child’s other parent about Christmas gifts can help avert stress.  Discussing factors such as spending limits, what is considered age appropriate, who else they should buy for (ie. grandparents or siblings) will all be helpful.  If you’re considering a significant purchase like a pet or something you know your former partner may not support (such as a weapon or violent video game) a discussion beforehand to see what they think and agree ground rules may help smooth the path. Even if you think your gift idea is perfectly reasonable, it is wise to consider the other parent’s objections and how they may respond.

Coordinated purchases

If your child has told you they want something in particular for Christmas, chances are they have told their other parent too.  Your child turning up on Christmas morning with the exact same thing you’ve got for them still wrapped under the tree is a recipe for disaster.  A discussion with your former partner about what you’re planning to buy can avoid disappointment all round.

Perhaps the thing your child has their heart set on is outside of your budget. Sharing the cost with your former partner not only means your child gets that thing they’ve coveted, but shows them that their parents can put aside their differences in the interests of their kids.  This may be the best present of all.

If a collaborative approach like this isn’t possible in your circumstances then our advice is to hang on to your receipts and try to make light of it when double ups happen.

Don’t make gifts conditional

One thing guaranteed to take the shine off a present is having conditions attached to its usage. If you’ve given a child a gift then it is only fair to consider it theirs and they should be able to decide when and how to use it.  Whilst the temptation can be for a gift to live and be used exclusively at one parent’s home, your child will probably want to take it to the other parent’s house too.  Consider it compliment! You’ve bought them something they want to use and share with others.

Focus on the occasion

Christmas isn’t all about the presents (honestly!). Often when kids are asked, the thing they’d really like at Christmas is to spend time with their parents and extended family. Christmas in Melbourne is a special time of the year, with plenty of options for spending quality time with the family while spending little or no money. If our famously fickle weather doesn’t come to the party, the museums, galleries, cooking together or even the never ending variety of sport on television all present good options for spending time on something the kids enjoy.


 At Umbrella Family Law we understand that Christmas, whilst a lovely and special time of the year, does present challenges for separated parents.  By taking a collaborative law approach, we can help you negotiate Christmas arrangements that meet the needs and wishes of all parties. Contact us if you need support to negotiate an outcome for your family this Christmas.