The holidays are approaching, so now is a fitting time to discuss what to do when gifts from your ex to your child lead to conflicts. For example, it is a sticky situation if your child has a new iPad but you prefer that the little one not use electronics at your house yet. Or what if your ex gives your child a gift that simply seems too extravagant or not age appropriate?
Here are four ways to deal with gift-giving as an unmarried parent.
Often, the best solution is to simply compromise, that is, to refrain from criticizing or putting down the gift yet setting down firm rules about its use (or lack of use) at your place. If your child is suddenly playing M-rated video games at your ex's house, refrain from interfering in the situation. Controlling what goes on over there will rarely lead to goodwill.
If your child complains that having to follow two sets of rules is unfair, acknowledge the situation, and say you wish he or she did not have to, either. You may want to allow for limited use of the gift at your house instead of a blanket prohibition. No matter what, understanding and compassion go a long way.
The gift may have you cringing internally, but staying positive is important. Children feel conflicted and stuck in the middle when one parent puts down the other parent in front of them; do not let a gift do this to you. It is fine to say things such as, "I can see you are excited about the gift."
Look to the future
Perhaps the gifts for this holiday were not what you wanted for your child, but you can look to the future. Now is as good a time as any to work on developing better teamwork between you and your co-parent. Hopefully, the gift fiascos will not be repeated.
You might even come to a better understanding of the rationale behind the gift; for instance, a parent who does not get much time with his or her child might turn to lavish gifts in an effort to compensate. With some serious discussion, both of you could end up in a better, less-tense place.
Remember the big picture
Above all, keep the big picture in mind. Contesting a gift may ruin your child's holiday, so pick appropriate times and places for any discussions with your ex or child. Also, put the gift in the context of everything; you may find that it is not as bad or as harmful as you thought at first.
Many separated or divorced people have difficulties in co-parenting. Consulting an attorney can help you navigate the process while making sure your rights are upheld.