Solving a Sticky Birthday Situation

by Ann Douglas

little girl wearing birthday hatMy friend had planned to invite all the kids in her child's class to the birthday party, but a classmate belongs to a faith that doesn't observe birthdays. Have you ever been in a sticky situation like this -- where you wanted to show respect to the family's faith, but didn't want a child to feel snubbed by being the only one who didn't receive an invitation? Here is my note to my friend.

I just want to start out by saying that the approach you are taking to this situation will teach your child all kinds of important and positive lessons about what it means to be a member of a multi-cultural and multi-faith society.

First of all, you're admitting that you don't have all the answers and who among us does? Secondly, you're trying to achieve two very positive goals at the same time: including this other child in your child's birthday celebrations, if at all possible; and respecting his family's faith traditions.

I think a two-tiered approach would probably work best in this situation. Send a birthday invitation home with the child. If possible, get in touch with the parents (either by phoning them or by including a short note in the invitation, asking them to phone you) so that you can discuss the birthday party arrangements with them over the phone.

It may be that birthday parties are completely out of the question, given the dictates of their faith. Or it may be possible for their child to attend, provided some special accommodations are made. Having a conversation with the parents will allow you to discuss what arrangements could be made to allow their child to be part of the birthday celebrations.

Even if it's not possible for their child to attend, the other parents will be pleased to know that you cared enough about their child to reach out and make the effort to include.

And as your child sees you going to this added effort on behalf of a friend and treating the parents with respect, regardless of what the ultimate outcome may be, he'll learn that every family has its own rules when it comes to matters of faith, and that those rules aren't "right" or "wrong," they're just different. That's a lesson many adults still struggle with. Teaching your child about tolerance is a pretty incredible birthday gift, if you ask me.

Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting including the bestselling "The Mother of All Pregnancy Books." She regularly contributes to a number of print and online publications, is frequently quoted in the media on a range of parenting-related topics, and has appeared as a guest on a number of television and radio shows. Ann and her husband Neil live in Peterborough, Ontario. with the youngest of their four children. Learn more at her site, having-a-baby.com.

Copyright © Ann Douglas. Permission to publish granted to Pregnancy.org.