Dr Diana Monteiro
I face a peculiar problem with my 11-year-old daughter. She absolutely hates birthdays. While most kids her age have a huge list of demands and are excited about their birthdays, my daughter never wants to celebrate. So much so that over the last few years she falls ill around the time of her birthday and is miserable if we even suggest a party.
It is unusual for a child to not look forward to her birthday. There are no specific reasons for a child to hate her birthday or to not want a party, so the reason can be ascertained only by talking to the child. For children in middle childhood (9-11), friends are an important part of their social lives and relationships begin to become complex, and peer pressure increases significantly. It is possible that the child feels isolated by her friends or is being bullied and thus does not want to subject herself to a party and become the target of more.
Children at this age can become mean to their peers and if your child is a victim of this, then not wanting a party might be a symptom of a bigger problem. Further, if you feel that your child is not being bullied or isolated, then it’s possible that she is introverted and does not like being the center of attention. Ask her what she would like instead.
If she wants nothing for her birthday, respect her wishes, but also explain that you are happy to have her in your life and would like to celebrate that. Suggest a small celebration with only immediate family. Another issue could be a bad experience or knowledge of something bad happening related to birthdays. Talk with your child and be involved in her life. The more you know and can talk to the child, the more you will understand.
Don’t push the child for a reason, but discuss the issue and why you want the child to celebrate, but also respect the child’s wish.
(The writer is a counselling psychologist at the Hyderabad Academy of Psychology. You can write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org)