How to Celebrate Your Kid’s Birthday & Other Milestones During the Shutdown


When Birthday Plans Drastically Change During Coronavirus

Every corner of our lives are affected by the coronavirus outbreak right now, including kid birthdays and other anticipated celebrations. (Like, what is Easter even going to look like this year??) But just because we can’t have the bash we had originally planned, there are still ways to celebrate milestones with friends and family while group gatherings are prohibited.

The Shutdown is Affecting Birthdays, Kid Sports, School Performances and More

My daughter became a teenager this weekend.  We had to cancel her scavenger hunt birthday party with her friends. We had to cancel the traditional birthday dinner with Grandma and Grandpa. We will be celebrating as a family of 4 (5 if you include our dog). At home. Where we have all been cooped up for a full week already.  Ugh.

My son’s high school track season started a couple weeks ago. They are not allowed to practice right now. My daughter’s water polo season is supposed to start at the end of the month. Her practices for the spring musical were scheduled to begin next week. Everything is on hold indefinitely.

My dad had surgery on Monday. We want to be able to help out, but also want to keep everyone safe. So we are staying home.

Our family’s stories are not unique. Many people are struggling with how to carry on with life while following the recommendations from health officials to stay home. Do you have a family birthday coming up? Did you have to cancel your spring break plans? Do you have a kid whose sports season is currently on hold? Are you already thinking about Easter?

Cancel thePity Party, Put on Your Creative Pants: Here are ways to Make the Best of Things. 

First, Make a Mental Shift

No parenting book prepares you for how to guide your family through a global pandemic (not that I am aware of, anyway!) This is uncharted territory for all of us.

As many of us have already learned this week, things are going to be very different for the next month or more.

Your first step to celebrating those birthdays and milestones in a new way is to make a mental shift. If you allow yourself to be stuck in a place of fear, uncertainty, and frustration, your entire family will struggle. Kids take our lead as parents.

Be willing to consider different options.

How to Celebrate Your Kid’s Birthday During the Coronavirus Shutdown

I think our gut reaction to a kid birthday during Coronavirus is 1. – to be really sad and then 2. – to just postpone or cancel it.

But we all need a reason to celebrate right now. Let’s give our kids (and friends and family) that welcome diversion. Let’s get creative in how to celebrate, but by all means, observe that birthday or other special day to the MAX.

We all need the smiles.

Don’t Cancel the Celebration: Reimagine It

One friend of mine shared that for her daughters’ birthdays, they each got to choose takeout from their favorite restaurants. Also, because they were unable to purchase gifts in person, they gave her money for her to spend shopping online. 

Another friend is doing a “driveway surprise party” for her teen daughter. When friends pull up, they’ll all sing her “Happy Birthday,” and possibly play some driveway charades (maintaining the appropriate 6 feet distance). At the end they’ll toss everyone a prepackaged snack.

Does one of your child’s friends have a birthday during this time? Go drop off a card or a gift on his or her doorstep! Write a note in chalk on their driveway! We all need to get out of the house and a car ride to show love for a friend or family member is a meaningful road trip.

And it doesn’t have to be on the day-of. We told our daughter that this is actually a great thing- because of the limitations being set, it’s like we are stretching her birthday out over several months. It’s all how you spin things as parents.

Use Technology for Connections

During this time, technology can be incredibly helpful for staying connected! For my daughter’s birthday, I asked friends and family to send a video birthday message. I put them all into a special video that we showed her on her birthday.

Girl watching birthday wishes video
The YouTube birthday wishes video was a success.

Additionally, Facetime and Zoom apps can be a great way to still include people in special events. Grandma and Grandpa will be at the table via Facetime when Zoe blows out the candles on her cake. Being able to see and talk to special people during this time has helped us feel close.

Give Kids the Big Picture

If we spin these new ways to celebrate right, kids will hopefully embrace the change. But what if the disappointment lingers? What if they were anticipating a trip to Disney for Spring Break? Or their first birthday sleepover? Or going to Florida to see Grandma and Grandpa?

Remind them that these are minor setbacks in the big picture of life.

Tell them this could be a way to save some money. Maybe you can buy that trampoline or swingset you have talked about!

If you are delaying your trip, set up a new countdown so kids know it’s still happening. Vacations are amazing, but skipping or delaying them is not the end of the world.

And while it’s not fun for your kids to experience disappointment, there are important life lessons in all of this: dealing with disappointment, making decisions for the greater good, delayed gratification, and being happy with what you have.

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