No matter who's wearing the Santa suit this year, professional therapists -- all single parents or step parents themselves -- offer these reminders about gift-giving:
Don't be seduced by your child into competing with the other parent. If possible, talk with your former spouse and decide what is reasonable.
Take time and make things with your child. Acknowledge ahead the kitchen will be a mess and just enjoy it!
Help the child create a present for the other parent: a concrete way to help them feel connected to the parent not there.
Remember that grandparents especially cherish homemade wrapping paper, cards and presents.
Give children a monetary limit if they are old enough (or they can use their allowance) and let them shop with a friend or relative, or on their own.
Coordinate: In blended families especially, often with four sets of grandparents and assorted aunts and uncles, this is crucial. Give them guidelines, sizes, colors. Ask them to include the other children in the family, and mainly, keep the number of presents down .
Psychologist Roger Burt says his four kids, with their four sets of grandparents, used to have to take breaks from opening presents Christmas Day. "Those guilty-feeling relatives sent mounds of gifts. It was horrendous."