Getting through the holidays as a parent can be tough enough, especially if you find yourself working longer hours so you can make extra money for holiday shopping. But it’s even more difficult when your ex is spoiling your kids with extravagant gifts they can afford and you can’t.
No matter how hard you work and how good of a parent you are, if your child is being spoiled, it may feel as though they like your ex better than you. Emotionally, that can take you to a dark place of feeling down on yourself. But don’t let it.
Gaining control of your emotions, searching for understanding, and finding ways to deal with this experience will make you a better person. And a better parent.
Here are a few tips for dealing with this very unique kind of holiday stress:
Don’t be blinded by labels
Don’t let the fear of not being considered “the fun one” distract you from being a good parent. It may take years for your child to understand your sacrifices, but that doesn’t mean you should change your parenting techniques. Your ex is likely not in the picture on a daily basis, where the real parenting takes place. It’s important to maintain steady boundaries and expectations at home.
Search for understanding
Your ex may be going overboard because they feel guilty about not being there every day or insecure about their place in your child’s life. Understanding why your ex is going overboard can help you appreciate the situation more and find ways to deal with it.
Talk to your ex
If you’re co-parenting well, you may be able to come to an understanding. Explain to them that spending time with your child is much more important than the gifts. Gifts will one day be forgotten, but experiences will last a lifetime. Encourage them to find better ways to spoil your child, with time instead of gifts. And agree to a limit of what each of you can spend on gifts so that one parent isn’t outdoing the other. Discuss gifts over a certain dollar amount before they’re given.
Consider a neutral party
If you and your ex are having a difficult time coming to an agreement, consider working with a neutral party to help each of you understand the other’s point of view and reach a compromise. A third party can often see things that you can’t because you’re too close to the situation.
Talk to your child
Set the expectations with your child from the start. Explain to them that each parent has their own set of rules and traditions; they shouldn’t come home with the same expectations of how things were with your ex. Be open with your child about the reasoning behind your rules or why you can’t provide what your ex can. This will start to foster respect and realism about the situation.
Regardless of what you do to try to manage the situation, don’t take it out on your child. They are an innocent bystander in the battle between their parents and they only want to love both parents.
Read more: Don't Miss These Teachable Holiday Moments
If you’ve exhausted all conversations with your ex and things still don’t change, give your child memorable experiences and holiday traditions rather than gifts. Get in the kitchen for some holiday baking, decorate the tree, go ice skating, make hot chocolate, and curl up on the couch for a holiday movie night. These are all things that don’t cost much but will live in your child’s memory for years to come.