12/12/2013 09:14 am ET Updated Feb 11, 2014

The Meaning of Gifts: How Much Do You Want to Spend on Your Children?

I recently met with a group of judges who make custody and access decisions about children. It was helpful and exhilarating to hear their comments. A major point judges made was that they want to hear more directly from parents about their relationship with their children, their children's personality and temperament and their co parent's knowledge about and relationship with their children. In other words, judges want to hear from you, not your attorneys, about what is best for your children.

I was heartened by this response since I have advocated for a child centered approach or focus for a long time.

Holidays put tremendous stress on families, particularly families who may be in the midst of family transitions. Losses and grief are rekindled at this time of year; adults may feel lonely and left out; children may remember the holiday when both parents were together and the world felt safe and secure for your children.

What are gifts you can give your children?

1. Drop the competition with your co-parent. Overabundance with material things doesn't equate with love or teaching children the meaning of a healthy relationship.
2. Show your children they come first:
• If you have a significant other, make sure you reserve lots of special time between just you and your children
• When you are with your child, be with your children sans texting
3. Have fun! Laughter helps and doesn't have to cost a lot of money. A dollar movie you both choose and watch together with homemade popcorn made together, can create a warm feeling between you and your child.
4. Be creative in new traditions you and your children create together. A pajama party watching old movies, baking simple treats, can reinforce your bonding.
5. Be a model for you and children.
6. Make cards for children to send to soldiers deployed, the elderly and or sick. Let your children follow through with mailing the cards.
7. Talk to your children about organizations that might benefit from a few hours of your family's volunteer time. There are some age requirements at many organizations which you would need to research prior to volunteering.

Babies love gifts, not the gifts but the wrapping paper, the sound of scrunching the gift wrap and most of all parents and relatives making a fuss over the baby. YOU really are the lasting gift to your children!

With warm wishes for a safe and wonderful holiday,