Emotional Spending on Children After Divorce Can Have Consequences


  • The adjustment after a parental divorce can cause parents to overcompensate and spend money on them.
  • Children can come to expect the spending, creating bad behaviors in the future.
  • Communication is key, in how co-parents work to correct this behavior and improve the children's perception of money.

"Establishing that foundation allows them to better understand that just because their parents are divorced, it does not mean they have a blank check for every toy or game that catches their fancy."

For children of divorce, the adjustment to having two places to call home can be a challenging transitional period in one’s life. There is a lot of adjustments to be made in one’s routine, and that isn’t even including the complex emotional baggage of mom and dad no longer being together. The lack of safety net can make a child feel uncomfortable and out of place.

Children can find themselves gravitating to their favorite toys and games, attempting to find a sense of comfort and familiarity in their personal and therapeutic style of play. However, during the transitions for child custody exchanges, children can find themselves either without their favorite toys entirely or with their toys, but in an unfamiliar environment.

Getting emotional

This can leave parents dealing with an emotional child in a new environment with nothing to do to pass the time. Many fathers, in particular, find themselves in this situation, unable to appease an emotionally distraught child unable to cope with their new situation.

In a panic, many run out and spend money on toys and games, in an effort to appease their child and become a favorite parent. This type of behavior is referred to as emotional spending.

In an effort to help children adjust, parents feel obligated to spend exorbitant amounts of money on toys and games, which tend to be a child’s interests.

Making sure that you don’t go overboard is key to the situation. U.S. News described situations where spending could get to the point where a parent could find themselves spending as if they still lived in a two-income household, in an effort to appease their children.

With a price

In the short-term, the children are satisfied and happy, and you, as a parent, look like a hero in their eyes. However, if this type of behavior consistently occurs, it can do long-term financial damage, can do long-term behavioral damage to the children, and cause pressure and anxiety for the parent involved.

According to The Huffington Post, children can find themselves expectant that their parent will pay for everything at a moment’s notice, and the parent in question can feel the pressure to appease their child by any mean’s necessary. This pressure is due to what’s previously been established in that, if you, as the parent, do not pay for what they desire, you will not have their love and affection and they will not be happy with their situation.

Co-parenting problems

This type of behavior also can make the co-parenting relationship between ex-spouses worse. When one co-parent says no to a purchase when the other co-parent says yes frequently to purchases, it can cause the children to develop negative feelings toward the parent that denies them what they desire.

That type of discord can lead to damaging behaviors in their relationship, later in life, but in the present, it can have a negative impact if custody were to ever be reevaluated.

Trying to break a precedent

Parents overcompensating for the negative impact that divorce can have on a child’s life through extravagant spending is an understandable behavior, but it is one that establishes a precedent for children to later cite when they are told no. This behavior tells children that money is not worth much, and if they want something, someone else will get it for them. This is not positive thoughts or behaviors that you, as a parent would like to instill in a child.

When trying to break these behaviors in children, it makes it difficult to reward them with a special treat like going out to dinner or getting ice cream. Behavioral confusion for children can result in emotional outbursts and issues in both households. Children can sometimes feel like both parents are ganging up on them by not giving them what they want, like they had previously gotten.

Yes and no

Knowing what is being said yes to and what is being said no can be vital in helping to correct the behavior. Despite all of the negative feelings involved in any custody dispute or divorce, co-parenting functions at its most efficient moments when both parents are able to be communicative. Without communication, all of the progress made in one household can be lost in the other household, and in those situations, the children involved learn nothing about the value of money and financial responsibility.

As children get older, they find themselves in need of learning the different between something that they need and something that they want. Financial responsibility is necessary to instill the value of a dollar, through mirroring behavior. If a child sees their parent spend extravagantly without much thought as to whether they need or want the item, they may imitate the behavior.

For children of divorce who have experienced their parent saying yes to purchases on a frequent basis, they do not have the foundation to differentiate between wants and needs. Establishing that foundation allows them to better understand that just because their parents are divorced, it does not mean they have a blank check for every toy or game that catches their fancy.

End of Content Icon

Leave a Reply