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Divorcing with children requires you to continue to interact with your ex-spouse. One event that parents often find challenging post-divorce are children’s birthdays. What are you going to do? Up until now, you threw one party invited all the friends and family members. But now you are getting or have gotten divorced. Perhaps you haven’t spoken to your inlaws since you and the ex-spouse stopped living together. So what should you do? You can’t skip your child’s birthday and you do not want to start out on the wrong foot so early in your co-parenting relationship. The good news is: You are not the first parent to face this dilemma. And even better there are multiple options all of which can and do result in happy birthday celebrations post-divorce.

The most common options taken are:

  1. One party together
  2. Alternate throwing a single party
  3. Throw two parties

One party vs. Two: The pros and cons

Let’s start with the pros of throwing a single party as opposed to two parties: first, the expense is much more manageable if you only have to throw one birthday party per kid per year. Second, the people you invite (some of whom might overlap) will not feel pulled to pick a party or to spend double and attend both. And third, a joint party means your kids get the joy of having all their family and friends in a single celebration. And it is often very comforting for your children to have some of these familiar family events continue after your divorce. Since it is only one day a year, it is a small sacrifice to make to give your kids a memory of both of their parents.

The cons: first, you have to get along with your ex-spouse during the planning and the actual party. Second, you have to depend on your friends and family to be on their best behavior. Third, you have to accept that your ex-spouse will not do his or her share the way you want them too.  If the cons are going to ruin the party, then your kids would enjoy a birthday party a lot more with one happy parent in attendance, than they would with two bitter, angry parents.

Can we handle throwing a single party together?

Before you agree to a joint birthday party, you have to ask yourself, how will we divide the work? Will I be able to let it go if my ex-spouse decorates wrong or spends too little or too much on his/her share of the party? Can you solve these problems by alternating who is in charge? Let your answers be your guide. Talk to your ex-spouse. And prepare yourself for him or her not to be comfortable throwing a party with you. Divorce hits everyone differently, and the healing process is just as distinct. If you and your spouse agree that you can work together to throw a single before you pick a cake, a theme, or even a location, discuss the guest list.

Can Our Families Behave Themselves?

Sadly, the people who can cause the most trouble at your post-breakup kid birthday parties are not you and your ex-spouse. Rather, it is often family members or family friends who cannot seem to help but share their two cents on your divorce every chance they get. And your child’s birthday party is no exception. So start with the guest list. Maybe you and your ex-spouse can agree to talk to potential troublemakers or to exclude them.

What if We Can’t Hold a Single Birthday Party?

Then shake it off and work on making the parties great. Try if you can to agree to not have them on the same day or weekend. Or maybe one of you throws a party and the other does something one on one. However, you handle the situation do it with grace and with your child’s happiness at the forefront. A birthday party is not an opportunity to show your child which parent is better.


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