Many divorcing or recently divorced parents buy extravagant gifts for their children. Often, it appears that the parent is doing so out of guilt over the divorce process or is either consciously or unconsciously attempting to buy the child's love. Worse, some parents try to buy the child as an ally against the other parent. None of these gifts are really what the children need, and they rarely accomplish the goal.
Children need gifts during and after their parents' divorce, but not the sort that comes in packaging. First, give them the gift of considering their needs first. Many parents get so focused on fighting the other parent or punishing the other parent (although very few of them actually think that they are doing these things) that they do not truly consider what is best for the children. Arizona law and Arizona judges focus on what is best for the children, not what is best for the parents. The two most qualified people in the world to make a decision on what is best for a child is the child's parents. If those two experts cannot agree, then a judge, who does not know the parents or children, and who is essentially a stranger in a black robe, will listen to about three hours of evidence and try to make a decision in the best interests of the children. Obviously, the parents are in a better position to make that decision, IF they truly focus on what is best for the children.
Second, the children need the gift of their parents' silence about the divorce process. Does anyone really think that talking to the children about the legal wrangling and, worse, criticizing the other parent are good for the children? Many parents just want to vent to their children, or think that they are just keeping their children informed. A few parents want to influence their children against the other parent. However, all of these parents are involving their children in the divorce process and positioning them between the two parents. This is not only not good for the children, but can often be emotionally destructive to them. The only things that a divorcing parent should say to the children about the other parent are good things. The children are a part of the other parent and should see the other parent for the kind of parent he or she is and is going to be, not as the spouse that he or she was during the marriage. Finally, badmouthing the other parent often backfires, not only when the judge hears about it at trial, but years or decades later, when the children mature and realize what happened.
Third, the children need the gift of a home. With the back-and-forth of a parenting plan (aka visitation schedule), they need each parent's home to also be their home. Children often feel displaced when at one or both parents' homes, so parents may want to make sure that their current home feels just as much like a home as the former marital home felt for the children.
Finally, a gift to give the children is the gift of not letting them see you dating, at least for a while. The children have just gone through what may be the biggest and most traumatic experience of their childhood. Witnessing one or both parents getting romantic with someone who is not the other parent is another big adjustment. More importantly, most people are very emotional during a divorce and the time immediately following it. When emotions are high, people tend to exercise bad judgment. No one should exercise bad judgment in deciding what person they will bring around their children, especially if that person may be spending a lot of time around them. The time that the children are with the other parent is a good time to date for people who feel that they must do so.
Many people shower their children with gifts during and after a divorce. However, the most important gifts for children during such a difficult time are gifts like the gifts that I discussed here. If you are going through a divorce or are thinking of starting a divorce, I am here for a consultation. I am a Phoenix divorce and family law attorney serving the Phoenix, Arizona area.