Q: I’m a bonus mom, and around the holidays I’m the one responsible for buying most of the presents for the family. Since my husband works long hours, I often help him out by taking his daughter shopping for a Christmas or birthday present for her mom. While shopping recently I saw an inexpensive plaque with a saying reminiscent of what my bonus daughter calls her maternal grandpa, and it would make a great Christmas gift for him from her. I almost bought it, but then I thought her mom might think I was overstepping my bounds. What’s good ex-etiquette?

A: It sounds as if you have good intentions, but we have to agree with you — Mom will probably think you’re overstepping your bounds. Although it’s very good ex-etiquette to take your bonus daughter shopping for a present for her mom, it’s very bad ex-etiquette to buy Mom’s father a present from your bonus daughter without talking to Mom first. Now if it was your husband’s father, that would be appropriate, but we think Mom will tell you that shopping for her side of the family is her responsibility.

When moms and bonus moms ask us for hints on how to get along, one of the things we suggest is “ask their opinion when looking for the solutions to problems with the kids.” We suggest starting small and what you describe is a perfect opportunity to reach out with the intent of making the transition smoother from house to house for the kids. In fact, it’s an excellent way of enhancing communication. Often when you have two people at odds (mom and bonus mom) amid a power struggle, the negative chain of interaction can be broken when one reaches out to ask the other for their opinion.

It sounds like you have enough background with Mom to initiate a phone call. Call her, tell her about the plaque, and ask her for direction. Be gracious — even though it’s your idea, don’t worry about getting “credit” for the find. If you frame your query like you’re offering to help her, it will be more readily accepted than if it appears you’re trying to take over. If she asks you where you saw the plaque, openly share the information. You’re paving the way for more positive parenting — in the best interest of the child.

THIS IS THE BEGINNING of the holiday season, and there is no better time than right now to start relying on the 10 rules of good ex-etiquette. For tips and articles on co-parenting during the holidays, check out the Bonus Families website or our book, “Ex-Etiquette for Holidays and Other Family Celebrations.”

Jann Blackstone-Ford and her husband’s ex-wife, Sharyl Jupe, authors of “Ex-Etiquette for Parents,” are the founders of Bonus Families (www.bonusfamilies.com).