Harmonious Holiday Gifting in a Blended Family

by Amy  - November 30, 2021

Holiday gifting in blended families can bring up all kinds of complicated emotions for the adults who give the gifts. 

In my experience these emotions can include jealousy, anger, sadness, anger and resentment.

These can be complicated situations navigating politics between divorced parents trying to co-parent, a whole bunch of in-laws and now new relationships with friends, romantic partners and even new spouses.

It can be a lot.

Today I will share a story of a few thoughts and emotions I had years ago with gifting and my step-kids.

I encourage you to share your experiences with me if that would be helpful.

Complicated holiday emotions over gifts

In my blended family one of the first complicated emotions that came up was that I had thoughts and feelings about my step-kids taking gifts that they got at our house to their other house. 

Let me explain. 

I married their dad but they were only with us very other weekend. Most of the time they spent at the other house. 

If you haven’t been through it it’s helpful to know that each blended family will have different set ups. This includes different custody splits. This isn’t really the topic of this article but in my opinion it can be helpful to drop the idea of “normal” and also “correct” when thinking about these setups. Whatever works for your family … works. 

Each family will also figure out how the two houses will be different. Some families may try to have the same sleeping set up at each house and in other cases the set up for the kids will be very different at each house. 

As I mentioned a second ago — In my opinion, there is no exact right or wrong way to do this. 

When my step kids were little we had doubles of a lot of their things. Clothes and bikes and toys were doubled up with some at each house. 

As the kids got older and their stuff got more personalized and expensive having doubles of everything stopped working very well.

For what it’s worth here’s how I remember the change happening in our two houses.

First it was clothes. The kids outgrew the clothes at our house. The drawers and closets were full but when the kids came over nothing we had fit.  The first thing that this happened to us with was school uniforms. Instead of buying all new things they started taking clothes in between the houses. We would still buy pjs and socks and undies but cute fun things tended not to stick at our house. 

At the same time it worked out that a lot of the toys ended up at one house. Bikes, skateboards and stuff like that ended up at the other house.  It made sense because they were there a lot more hours in the week. 

Where should the holiday gifts go … or stay in a blended family?

How did this shake out with gifts? As you can imagine most gifts went to the primary house.

When we would give gifts — if the kids enjoyed the gifts they would want to take them to the other house. 

Sometimes this would happen almost immediately after they got the gift. 

I remember that it felt weird. 

We woke up on Christmas morning and there was a keyboard for one kid and a bike for another. And they were really happy and then almost immediately the new things were packed up and taken to the other house. 

The kids still enjoyed the gifts but the adults (parent and step-parent) didn’t get too much time to enjoy them enjoying the gifts at the other house. 

Initially, I felt like I wanted to ask that the kids keep their toys at our house. After all this was where we lived and we bought the gifts. 

I don’t remember if I kept my mouth shut or if I shared this idea out loud. It could be either way. 

I also don’t remember if I came to this gifting thinking or evolution on my own or with the help of others.

I do remember that after some thinking I came to the decision that making the kids keep the gifts at my house might be selfish. After all, I’m an adult and these gifts aren’t for ME — they were for the kids. 

This is based on the idea that if I’m truly giving somebody something then it’s for them and I should want them to have it. 

It made sense to me for the kids to take the gifts to where they would use them. If they were going to actually get to enjoy the gifts they should be at the other house because that’s where the kids were for more of their time. 

This is my experience and my opinions. You may feel differently and not agree. That’s totally fine.

This is a reality of a blended family. Sometimes being happy in a blended family means accepting the realities of a blended family.


Acceptance is not easy to do. 

Sometimes it’s very hard. 

It can be very helpful to work with a coach or a therapist or trusted confidant in these situations.

A reality of kids with divorced parents is that the kids often have more than one place where they sleep. 

In my experience most kids in blended families have one house that they think of as “home.” This is where their personal stuff is. 

In my experience this changes some as the kids age up.

Changing how I thought about gifting

How I began to think about giving gifts and how I’ve learned to enjoy giving gifts has changed a lot over the years. 

As a kid we mostly get gifts and it’s awesome. When we get older we give gifts and it’s also fun but totally different. Sometimes we may realize as adults that we have some emotions tied up in the experience of giving and receiving gifts.

Now when I give gifts I give more freely, 

I learned this quickly as a step-mom. I might have learned it otherwise but who knows. In any event I’m thankful for the lesson.

I learned to enjoy giving gifts only because I wanted to give them. And entirely because I wanted the other person to have the gift. Without attachment to being a part of the experience. Without expecting anything in return.

These thoughts are part of what enabled me to be okay with the gifts going from house to house. 

If you are thinking that this sounds too perfect to be totally true. 

That’s true too. I’m not a robot. I’m not an angel. 

Once you realize that some of the gifts are going straight to the other house I believe that it is natural that it does shift how you think about buying the gifts. 

I mean, of course. How could it not? 

In fact, I think it’s smart to have big wide open eyes throughout this experience. It’s the surprise of the experience that can sometimes make it less fun.

We definitely gave plenty of gifts over the years that were house specific. For example if we put a tv in a kid’s room that was a gift for their room at our house. 

As the kids got older we also learned that the kids sometimes will see opportunities with this two house gifting setup. That’s a topic for another article.

There are lots more things that come up with gifting in blended families so I will be writing more articles. If you have things happening in your blended family with gifts that you would like to share or get advice you can reach out to me for coaching here. Or join my free online community here. 

Training for You

Grab my Steps for Happiness as a Stepparent

Why I coach adults in blended families


Amy Stone (she/her/hers) is a life coach who helps adults in blended families. She is a mom, step-mom and a step-grandma. Other random fun facts include that She is a 7-time Ironman triathlon finisher and many many marathons and shorter races. She created amysaysso.com.

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