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Giving Presents | Coping During the Holidays | The Rejected Parent Newsletter

This newsletter is for parents who are being rejected by their children and those who support them. I will be sending regular newsletters to give suggestions and support to parents dealing with rejection from their children on all levels. I generally support parents whose children are 18 years and under; however, some of this will apply to parents with adult children as well.

Hello Reader,

This newsletter is part of the Coping During the Holidays series. Parents will often ask me whether they should give presents to their children and what kind of presents to give them over the holidays (or birthdays). It’s hard for parents to make that decision in the middle of family upset when their child is rejecting them.

There are so many reasons why a child may reject a parent, some of which are split loyalties. If a child feels like they are betraying or afraid to leave their other parent alone for some reason, then it’s not about disrespecting the rejected parent. They are children, and emotions like anxiety or guilt about leaving the other parent are stronger than the pain of not seeing the rejected parent. Children get caught in the middle of their parents’ dispute and feel it long after the parents have settled on custody, even into adulthood.

Caught in the Middle

Most children feel caught in the middle of their parents' break up and will do their best to regulate their own emotional systems by taking sides. Taking away a present when a parent would have ordinarily given one to their child can feel punitive. Children may feel like a parent doesn’t love them anymore. Or they may feel like a parent will only give them a present if the child does what a parent tells them to do, like coming over to the parent’s house for the holidays, therefore feeling manipulated. Some parents say, “If you come over for our family party, you can get your present. You won't get your present if you don’t come over.”

Presents should not be used to lure your child back to seeing you. In my experience, I have never seen this work at all. It tends to push children away from the rejected parent more. If you are used to giving presents for the holidays or birthdays, continue to do so.

Gifts: Common Concerns

Some common concerns arise for parents when considering presents for their child. The following are some concerns and possible solutions:

  1. Children will not get their present and never know you sent one, or they will throw their presents away and waste your time and money. Solution: Only give presents you have enough money to duplicate (not whole gaming systems, jewelry, etc.). Buy two and give one to your child, and then keep the other stored for a later time (even if it’s ten years from now). Think of something that will not spoil (like food) or expire (like gift cards).

  2. Refuse to take what you are trying to give them. Solution: Mail a handwritten card or letter instead and keep the present for when you can see your child again.

  3. Children feel bad if your co-parent makes derogatory remarks about your present. Solution: You cannot control a co-parent and what they say to your child. Make this as positive as you can with your child. Send a card to go with it and talk about celebrating a milestone or a special memory you have from that holiday.

Cards and Storage

Giving just a gift may not convey how you feel about your child. So, including a card is a great way to personalize your gift. Cards can reconnect you with your child emotionally and may make that gift even more special. Try writing about some sweet memories you had with your child or referencing something that you are proud of them accomplishing.

If you are storing presents that may be there for years, pick an age-appropriate personable present that will last (no food, expired gift cards, etc.). It’s okay if they no longer play with Legos or dolls by the time they get those presents. It will show that you were always there and ready for them to spend time with you. If now is not the time you are allowed to give gifts, turn this rejected time into hope for your future. Can you imagine what it will be like when your child returns and sees what you had waiting for them when they are ready? I predict it could warm their hearts. And they would know that you were there the whole time and trying.

-Cathy Himlin


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