20 Jan

Separated parents and children’s birthdays

Original article by Gary Direnfeld (Canadian social worker) November 24, 2014

In the world of divorced/separated parents, attending and organising get-togethers for children’s birthdays and  can be a struggle.

Who doesn’t want to celebrate their child’s birthday on their actual birthday and what parent wouldn’t want their child to be with him/her on their birthday too? Here is some advice separated parents can take regarding children’s birthdays.

If the parents get along and can easily tolerate each other’s company then it may be simple and easy for both parents to manage their separation and children’s birthdays by attending the scheduled party which younger children would have with their friends.

As for time with your child on their actual birthday (child or parent) when the residential schedule doesn’t permit, this can be trickier.

To find time mid-week to have a few minutes or hours with your child may prove burdensome depending on the age of the child and any extra-curricular activities or homework. If one parent takes or misses an opportunity for time with the child apart from what is scheduled, then many separated parents get befuddled trying to sort out “make-up” time. Accommodating children’s birthdays mid-week can create quite a dilemma.

Remembering that the best predictor for the developmental outcome of children of separated parents has little to do with attending children’s birthdays on the actual birthday or the residential schedule or choice of school, but more to do with parental conflict (see also article on Separated Parents and the Continuum of Conflict), then those choices for celebrating your children’s birthday, or your birthday with your child, that lessen conflict are typically best.

Given the ongoing goal of alleviating parental conflict and with a mind to ease of schedules and the natural demands of life mid-week, most parents opt to celebrate children’s birthdays when with their child in accordance with the regular residential schedule. This is the approach most parents choose.

Again, depending on the parents’ ability to get along, both may attend child birthday parties or alternately one parent may be responsible for planning that party separate from the other parent and on an alternate year basis – with the parents taking turns planning.

Here’s the bottom line – stay away from the issues that create conflict. Separated parents and children’s birthdays may be the start to finding solutions that facilitate peace.

Not together on the actual birthday? A brief phone call can suffice until you can be together in person. Yours and your children’s birthdays should remain celebratory and not be the fodder for bad memories.