Throwing A Birthday Party with a Split Family

Birthday parties. Honestly, I have never been a big fan of them. There’s so much planning and preparing to do.  And, you have to try to make it fun for everyone, while at the same time making your kid feel like royalty. Plus, you have to either cook food or take out a second mortgage to get food catered food.  And then, don’t forget the twenty trips to the dollar store because you have to pick up streamers, balloons, paper products, gift bags, and…what am I forgetting?

These parties just don’t fly with me, which is crazy because I love hosting and have a heart for hospitality.  Yet, when it comes to birthday parties, something is different. There’s this unspoken pressure that everything has to be Pinterest-perfect, and I find it to be draining. I love my kids and want to celebrate them, so I end up doing these parties anyways, and they always end up being great (well, sometimes).

Birthday with a Split Family

My parents are divorced, so it’s tricky planning birthday parties where both parents can come and feel comfortable. At first, I just thought I would organize two parties–one for each side of the family. I’d invite a few friends to each- HA!

Knowing how I feel about birthday parties, you already know that I’m not about to subject myself to that two-party-nonsense. So, I decided since both my parents love my kids and want to celebrate them too, I’d just forget the awkwardness and throw one party.

Through the past few years of birthday parties, I’ve found out what does and doesn’t work. If you’re anything like me and birthday parties make you both smile and grit your teeth at the same time, this is for you.

A Word of Encouragement

Before you read these tips, I just want to encourage you. If the food gets burnt (that’s happened to me), if the AC doesn’t work (also happened to me), if there is drama within the family (again, has happened to me), if your child has a huge sugar crash, or no matter how a birthday party (or holiday gathering) turns out… YOU. ARE. AMAZING.

You dedicated time, effort, energy, and love to your child, and, believe me, they know it and they saw it. They see how much you love them. They see all that you have done for them. And, something that my aunt told me on my son’s first birthday is this: this is not only celebrating them, but it is also celebrating YOU. You have raised and trained your child for years, and this is a day of reflecting on your amazing job as a mother. You rock, Momma!

Five Tips for Success

#1: Find a neutral place to host.

My grandma has the party house. Every gathering, holiday, dinner, celebration–you name it–is hosted there. It’s a no-go for the birthday parties, however. It’s important to respect both sides of the family and not make it seem like I’m showing preference to one side over the other. Plus, who wants to go to your ex-in-laws for a party?

Find a neutral location where both families will feel welcomed and comfortable at. Parks have worked out well for us. Many parks are free to reserve a shelter and there is usually a grill and plenty of parking. There are other indoor options you could consider as well. Be creative, but be neutral.

#2: Contact both sides.

Keeping in contact with both sides of the family ensures them that they are welcome and wanted at the party. This goes a long way. Make a phone call or reach out via a Facebook message reminding them about the party and involving them however you can. Better yet, have your child call and talk to them! Don’t let the art of the phone call die in your family. There is so much connection that comes from hearing someone’s voice, emotion, and dialogue. Contact breeds relationship, so communication will keep the door open to civility and love.

#3: Make sure adults have things to do.

It’s easy to make sure the kids have a good time. You rent a bouncy house, ensure there’s a pool, blow some bubbles, set up a slip n slide…and it’s fun, fun, fun. However, the adults can do more than just sit around eat, while trying to make uncomfortable conversations. Avoid throwing a party the adults dread. Put out a cornhole game, have some footballs or frisbees available, maybe even set up croquet, or a silly photo booth. Make it enjoyable for everyone there. In my family I am the only grandchild that has kids right now, meaning the parties are mainly for grown-ups, so I have learned that everyone needs something to do.

#4: Serve good food.

Good food means good moods. It’s a beautiful thing, really. People come together around the delight in eating. Do not worry about doing anything complicated or fancy. People aren’t expecting to eat gourmet goodies at a three-year-old’s birthday party. They are in the mood for some chips, sweet tea, and cake.

Here are some quick party food ideas that I always go to:

  • Buffalo Chicken Dip
  • Crockpot BBQ Chicken Sandwiches
  • Baked Mac n’ Cheese
  • Hamburgers & Hot Dogs
  • Chips and Dip
  • Fruit Salad
  • Potato Salad
  • Turkey and Cheese on Hawaiian Rolls
  • Taco Bar

#5: Pray over the party.

This one should be the first thing you do and the thing that you don’t stop doing. Prayer is so powerful, it can move mountains and guide you through the valleys. Prayer is relying on God and trusting in His ways. So pray. Pray for:

  • The weather
  • The food
  • The finances
  • Every person you’ve invited
  • Every person who shows up–that they experience the love of Christ
  • Joy and gratitude–for you, your kids, and the guests
  • Forgiveness within your family
  • FUN

Pray that you are able to enjoy this party amidst all the chaos and sweating.

And last but not least, rain down prayers over your little one that you are celebrating. This is all for them anyway, right?

Pray in thankfulness for the joy and memories that they have brought you so far, and contend in prayer for their future, declaring truth and power over them.

Best wishes to you all as you get in the car to run to the store for the 12th time because you forgot birthday candles! It’ll all be worth it.

You got this, Mom.


Many thanks to Madeline Coleman for her insights and encouragement through this article. If you’ve found this encouraging, please drop us a line and let us know. We’ll be sure to share your comments with Madeline. 

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