Christmas following a divorce can be an extremely difficult time for co-parents. Each parent wants to create positive holiday memories with their children-and they may be tempted to over-indulge them in the process.

However, thoughtless actions or malicious feelings towards your ex can quickly lead to your child feeling anxious and isolated. Many co-parents don’t realize the stress they inadvertently inflict on their children over the holidays.

Follow these tips to keep your child’s post-divorce Christmas happy and harmonious:

  • Collaborate: You may not want to talk to your ex, but coordinating in advance on who will buy what can spare you problems down the road. Your child may give you and your ex the same wish list, which can result in duplicate gifts-and resentment or hurt feelings. Importantly, this situation can also make your child feel badly-thereby creating unhappy holiday memories for them. Plan your gifts with your ex, and save your receipts. In case of duplication, use the trip to the department store as an opportunity to let your child pick out something they love.
  • Don’t compete: Competing with your ex over buying the “best” gift can give your child the impression that you’re trying to buy their love. A child’s enthusiasm for a new toy wears off quickly. The holiday memories your child will hold on to will be about the quality time and experiences you share.
  • No strings attached: If you splurge on a fancy new toy for your child, you may resent the idea of them taking it to your ex’s house to use. However, putting limits on where your child can play with their present makes the gift less fun. Only give gifts that you’re willing to let your child take to their other parent’s house.
  • Don’t undermine your ex: Don’t buy gifts you know the other parent will disapprove of, to teach them a lesson. Doing so only puts your child in the middle of a conflict and can make them feel disappointed or guilty.
  • Exemplify love: Even if you and your ex are not on good terms, it’s good to encourage your child to do something special for their other parent for the holidays. Help your child buy or make presents for your ex and other family members. Such behavior reinforces the spirit of the season.

Co-parenting over the holidays can be challenging. However, with the right approach, you can use the time to create new, happy memories with your children.