Coronavirus Kent: How to enjoy a child's birthday during the virus outbreak
How can you best celebrate a child's birthday in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak? Senior reporter Lauren Abbott shares her experiences...
Between school closures, home working, home schooling and getting to grips with either self-isolation or social distancing, there's been a birthday in our house.
Oscar's ninth birthday is one of three we'll celebrate in the coming fortnight, by which time I think we'll be experts in party planning for one. For those who may have a child's birthday on the horizon, I thought I'd share a few things we have discovered about celebrating in the midst of a global pandemic...
1 Lower their expectations
Kids love their birthdays, and you can guarantee as soon as Christmas passes every year, conversations turn to birthday planning. But before wish lists get out of hand, if you think restrictions because of the virus outbreak are still likely to be in place by you child's next birthday, do your best to gently forewarn them.
I appreciate wholeheartedly that this is very dependent on your child's age and temperament (I'm not sure his sister is going to be quite so understanding) but preparing him that family wouldn't be able to visit, that he couldn't have any sort of celebration with friends at the moment or that there could be no outing or day out of his choice, meant that by the time we got to the day, he had a fairly good idea about what and why it was happening.
2 Make use of all the technology
Despite the challenges we are all facing one consolation is the huge amount of technology at our fingertips.
Houseparty, Zoom, facetime over Whatsapp or Messenger and other forms of video calling mean that family and friends can join all manner of virtual parties. And those offering multiple screens are ideal for a rendition of happy birthday and to see them blow their candles out!
3 Pick presents accordingly but don't be afraid of an IOU!
Oscar's top three requests were for a computer game, a new pair of football boots and some David Walliams and David Baddiel books.
Assuming that some form of lockdown in Kent was coming we didn't disagree with the game request, we went heavy on the books and he's been given an 'I owe you' on the football boots.
With all grass roots football suspended and with no real idea of when it might resume again, not to mention getting into shops as they were all preparing to close, we felt that it was pointless giving him something he couldn't use and might very well grow out of before he's had a chance to.
As soon as restrictions are lifted and football resumes, he can claim the football boots of dreams and we hope in the meantime it's an added something to look forward to.
4 Give them some control (within reason!)
So much about family celebrations of any kind is currently out of our control with attractions shut, gatherings not allowed and restaurants closed. But where possible I'd strongly recommend throwing their big day over to them where you can.
Where as previously they may have chosen a favourite restaurant instead perhaps let them pick a popular dinner at home or takeaway (if available), ask them if they'd like to choose a movie and there's always extra brownie points if they can tuck into a mountain of their favourite snacks and sweets as well.
5 Nothing is cancelled merely postponed
I think in the current climate, it helps for us all to have something to look forward to where possible, and children are likely to be no different. Particularly as the novelty of no school and being home more gradually wears off.
Whilst birthday parties and family celebrations haven't taken place right now, I've said to Oscar it doesn't mean they can't, they just need to be delayed.
We've pencilled in a party with his friends for September when he'll be nine and a half, by which time we sincerely hope he will have gone back to school, and since Christmas he's been fascinated with a particular exhibition in London, that should it resume, we'll try and buy tickets to as well.
If two birthdays are good enough for the Queen....