Duty parent responsibilities regarding your children’s friends’ birthday parties can be delegated, shared, or managed completely on your own. Helping children stay engaged with their friends during each parent’s residential time is good for kids.

However disruptive or inconvenient, friends’ birthday parties often sprinkle across any number of weekends in the elementary school years. For the coParent who has limited time with his/her children, this may have a much greater impact than for the parent with more time. When coParents can coordinate purchasing, wrapping a present, and having the child prepared for the birthday party with directions/invitations, your coParent is less stressed and your child can enjoy birthday party attendance. This may be another way of practicing generosity if your assistance is welcomed and supportive.

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When both coParents are invited, friend birthday parties are like any other kid-centric event in public. If you both attend, follow your coParenting Protocols. Sometimes parents opt for following the residential schedule when deciding who will attend — in other words, the “duty parent” follows the child to the party. In the event where one parent clearly has a more primary relationship with the family extending the invitation, coParents may opt to swap time.

The guiding principle is to practice creativity and child-centered problem-solving when it comes to resolving tension/conflict for kid-centric events.

Kids can’t always attend every party — support daily decision-making in each home. As much as we champion kids staying involved with peers as they move from one home to another, there will be situations and times when it’s simply not practical or possible. When both coParents support each other in day-to-day decision-making, children are more capable of settling down and accepting limits and boundaries. “If dad says, ‘not this time,’ mom echoes, ‘not this time.’” That way, kids aren’t caught in the middle.

Excerpt from The Co-Parents’ Handbook by Karen Bonnell.


About Karen Bonnell

Karen has over 25 years of experience working with individuals, couples, and families facing transition, loss, stress and change. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Karen has been Board certified and licensed as an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner since 1982. She served on the faculty of University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University & Seattle Pacific University before beginning full-time private practice in 1984. She continues to be a provider of Professional Continuing Education to both health care and legal professionals.

Karen served on the Board of King County Collaborative Law and Collaborative Professionals of Washington. She is a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and Academy of Professional Family Mediators.

Her work is found through Unhooked Books: https://www.unhookedmedia.com/#home.