Spoiling your child as you divorce can do more harm than good

You may have looked at other parents who spoiled their kids with expensive electronics, cars, ski trips and shopping sprees during their divorce and vowed you would never do that. However, when it’s your divorce and your kids, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by guilt. Sometimes, a weekend in Aspen seems like the only way to make it up to them.

However, spoiling your kids during and after divorce will likely just paper over the real problems. Buying a jumbo flat-screen TV for their bedroom may perk them up, but it won’t solve what’s bothering them (unless what’s bothering them is the lack of a large TV). They’ll just bury their feelings until they come out in other ways.

If spoiling your child also annoys your co-parent, that can be a bonus. A common battle between co-parents is how much money to spend on the kids. It’s often a contest to be the favorite parent.

Spoiling doesn’t have to involve money, however. Permissiveness is another way to spoil kids. Letting them play whatever video games they want or stay up as late as they choose are other ways that parents assuage their guilt and/or compete with their co-parent. Either way, kids can sense when parents are being manipulative and learn to use it to their advantage in both homes.

What are your true motives?

Here, however, we’re talking about spoiling a child by buying things. If you’re not sure if that’s what you’re doing, before you swipe that credit card (or give it to your child), ask yourself a few things and answer honestly:

  • Is this something I would have bought them if I wasn’t divorcing?
  • Am I getting anything out of this, or is it purely for my child?
  • Am I buying this immediately after something has happened that’s made me feel bad?

Of course, money may be a big factor, too. Can you afford what you’re buying your child or are you putting it on a joint credit card that you know your spouse will be paying off in the divorce?

No one is saying that you shouldn’t treat your child occasionally, divorce or no divorce. However, the best gift you can give them is a healthy co-parenting relationship. Having a well-thought-out custody agreement and parenting plan is a solid first step.

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