Co-parenting after a divorce can be challenging even for couples who remain on exceptionally good terms with each other. Going into a divorce, dads worry that the courts will always put moms first.
While that’s not necessarily true anymore, there will still be times when dads feel like they’re second-class citizens when it comes to their kids. Birthdays can be such occasions.
But even if your divorce was adversarial, you should set aside hard feelings for family birthday celebrations. What divorced dads should do on family birthdays is be as gracious as possible, support and encourage the kids, and participate gamely in planned activities, even if they weren’t invited to help plan the event.
Younger kids have strong ideas about birthday themes, games, and presents. Older kids might just want to spend the day with friends and not make a big family deal out of it.
Both divorced partners should be flexible and accommodating. The day is about the birthday child, not about the ex-partners.
Set an Example
Your kids will take cues from you about how to behave in social situations. They’ll watch you to learn what they’re expected to do.
If things are tight financially, help your kids create do-it-yourself projects to make gifts for a sibling or your ex-partner.
Planning is critical, especially if there is a milestone birthday coming up, like a quinceañera, a Sweet 16, or a 21st birthday. Talk to your ex-partner in advance to discuss plans, and how you can participate.
If your ex is the one facing a big birthday, such as turning 40, stow the age jokes and do your best to make the day special for the sake of your kids and your ongoing co-parenting relationship.
If your ex’s big day comes on your regular visitation day, be flexible. If you’ve taken steps to maximize your time with your kids, you shouldn’t begrudge your ex a full day devoted to recognizing how important they are to your children.
You may find that what your ex really wants for their birthday is some time to themselves. Volunteer to take the kids that day even if it isn’t your regular day.
Take the High Road
If your break-up involved infidelity, deception, or financial betrayal, set your resentment aside for birthdays and other special holidays. Your kids love you both, and acrimony between you and your ex will feel like the bad old days when you were fighting all the time.
If you pay attention to what divorced dads should do on family birthdays, you should see reciprocation when your special day rolls around. But if your ex-partner doesn’t cooperate, make sure your kids know that you love them, and just spending time with them, on any day, is enough.