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Should I Get The Ex a Holiday Gift?

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A common question I receive around big holidays (Mother’s Day, Christmas, Hanukkah, etc.) is, “Should I get the ex a holiday gift?” or some variation thereof. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but often, the answer isn’t a simple “Yes” or “No.”

But, because I get asked this question so often, I’ve compiled a list of questions that I ask to understand more about the motivation, expectations, and other factors surrounding the question that ultimately determine my advice.

This blog post will walk you through a series of questions that will help you identify if you should (or should not) purchase a gift for your stepchild’s other parent.

Generally Speaking

The general rule of thumb is that if you have a good enough relationship with the other parent and can give a gift without expectation of appreciation or reciprocation, then it’s perfectly fine to give your stepchild’s other parent a holiday gift!

Sometimes, giving a gift to another person can be an olive branch, but the complicated dynamics of co-parenting aren’t often conducive to an olive branch being received with the intended effect.

Therefore, if there’s existing conflict or tension, this holiday probably isn’t the right time to give a present.

Keep this link handy for the next time you’d like to send a gift to your co-parent, and maybe you’ll find yourself in the “Yes!” column then.

Stepmom is a fluid role, and you never know how things might change in the future.

Question #1: Do you have a friendly relationship with the ex?

First and foremost, I think it’s important to evaluate the current state of affairs with the other parent. Are things friendly?

If so, you may keep going through these questions and make a final decision for yourself.

If not, then why would you want to give them a gift? Let’s explore that in Question #2.

Question #2: What are your intentions behind getting the ex a holiday gift?

Are you gifting something out of a sense of obligation? If so, no need to fret because you don’t owe anything to your co-parent. You’re not rude if you don’t give them a gift.

Are you gifting as a kind of olive branch? If so, I wouldn’t. The chances of it being received well aren’t in your favor, and I don’t want you to get your hopes up.

Did you see something that you thought the other person would appreciate and want to get it for them as a kind gesture with no hidden agenda? That sounds like a good start to me!

Did your stepchild point something out at a store and ask you to purchase it for their other parent? This is dicey territory… Let’s keep going with the questions to make a more informed decision.

Question #3: Would you feel good about buying the ex a holiday gift?

Oof. A big question. An important one.

How would you feel about giving them a gift? About spending your money on a gift, or spending your time making a gift?

Those are limited, valuable resources. If you wouldn’t feel good about spending them on your co-parent, then no other question is relevant, and you have your answer.

It is perfectly okay to say no, friend.

Question #4: Are you in the middle of a court battle?

This is one I don’t always think to ask, but it’s a critical factor! If you’re in the middle of renegotiating custody, child support, or any other part of your parenting plan, then now is not the right time to give the ex a holiday gift.

Your intentions, no matter how noble, will likely be misinterpreted and do more harm than good.

Question #5: Do you expect a gift in return?

Are you giving with an expectation of reciprocity? If so, that’s unnecessary pressure to put on the relationship.

Something else to think about while we’re discussing expectations… What if the other parent doesn’t seem appreciative or interested?

If you have expectations about how the other parent should respond (even something as seemingly obvious as saying “Thank you”), then I’d advise not giving a gift.

Why give an already-fragile relationship an unnecessary opportunity to create friction?

Hope that helps!

I hope these questions have helped you to stop and analyze whether or not buying the ex a holiday gift is the right decision for you at this point in time.

Like I mentioned from the start, it’s not always a black and white answer. There’s not a single correct answer or advice for every stepmom in every situation.

Because all of our situations are so unique, it can be helpful to get a professional third party’s opinion. If you’d like to learn more about our stepmom support coaching programs, apply below and I’ll be in touch!

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P.S. The holidays can be a great time to create new family traditions!

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