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Birthdays for the highly sensitive child

By Tavish Becker

After his 4th birthday party, my highly sensitive child anxiously asked me if he would have to have another party next year. I said no. I said we didn’t need to host another party ever. The relief on his face was tangible and highly enlightening for me.

A child who runs away or cries when people sing happy birthday, a child who has a tantrum in the middle of a party, a child who hides and refuses to play. These are signs that your child needs you more than ever over their birthday period (and I say birthday period because nowadays birthDAYS turn into birthWEEK or birthMONTHS with some parents hosting 4 to 5 celebrations for their child). For a highly sensitive child, this period can be one of joy and happiness but more likely it is highly anticipated but becomes a time of high distress, with screams, tantrums and general misery. Your child needs you to stand up for their right to peace, harmony and happiness. For me this means avoiding a birthday party, many celebrations, guests and singing. For those of you who do not parent a highly sensitive child, this must sound like the mad rant of a fun-hating miser mom! But without a party, without the singing and the piles of presents, I believe I acted in the best interests of my child.

This year he turned 5. And there was only 1 meltdown over his entire celebratory period (which I managed to curtail to 2 days only). He woke up to 4 presents, a small cake and candles. We unwrapped, ate the cake, and then played quietly. We went to a playdate at a friend’s house but I didn’t mention the birthday. The next day we had a braai in the garden with friends. Again it wasn’t a birthday party. Instead it was an event for the adults, cooking and chatting together in the garden whilst the 5 children (my 2 and 3 others they knew very well) made their own fun. They had an awesome time, but we did nothing to entertain them, to hype them up, there was no singing, no candles and no special attention paid to my son.

Later he told me that he was the happiest child in the whole world. And I believed him.