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Separated Parents: What to do about birthdays?

November 24, 2014

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?

However, in the world of separated parents, attending and organizing birthday get-togethers can be a struggle.

If the parents get along and can easily tolerate each others company then it may be simple and easy for both parents to attend the scheduled birthday party for younger children they would have with their friends.

As for time with your child on the 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 a birthday mid week can create quite a quagmire.

Remembering that the best predictor for the developmental outcome of children of separated parents has little to do with attending birthdays on the actual birthday or the residential schedule or choice of school, but more to do with parental conflict, then those choices for celebrating your child’s birthday or your birthday with your child that mitigate conflict is typically best.

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

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.

Bottom line – stay away from the issues that create conflict and find solutions that facilitate peace.

Not together on the actual birthday – a brief phone call can suffice until together in person.

Yours and your child’s birthday should remain celebratory and not fodder for bad memories.

This  other blog post may help appreciate the comments above more;

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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