Two in five parents (40%) of children under 18 admit to feeling pressured into organising more extravagant birthday parties for their children than they would like to, according to research by children’s charity, Lumos, carried out by YouGov, and released on Saturday 21 May 2011.
The charity founded by JK Rowling – which launches its Light a Birthday Candle for Lumos campaign on 1 June, International Children’s Day – also found that two-thirds (66%) of these parents believe that children’s birthday parties have become too expensive compared to five years ago. Light a Birthday Candle for Lumos aims to raise awareness of the hundreds of thousands of children in Central and Eastern European institutions unable to celebrate their individual birthdays, many of whom do not know their actual date of birth.
Over 500 UK parents of children under 18 took part in the survey, with over two-fifths (42%) revealing that they spent between £100 and £500 on their children’s birthday parties in the last year alone. By contrast, £500 could help Lumos move a child out of an institution in Moldova, Bulgaria or the Czech Republic into a foster care placement – transforming their future. Just one in ten (13%) UK parents spent £50 or less in the past year.
Georgette Mulheir, chief executive of Lumos, says, “Parents in the UK are under increasing pressure to spend more and more money on birthday parties for their children and their children’s friends. While we are in no way criticising mums and dads for celebrating their children’s birthdays, the results of this research highlight the huge disparity between what our children have here in the UK, compared with the many thousands of youngsters who live just a few hundred miles away.
“Across Central and Eastern Europe, 1 June is celebrated as International Children’s Day and is the day that many institutions celebrate the birthdays of the hundreds of children within them. This means that institutions are doing something for the children, but in terms of each child’s personal identity, it is yet another way of destroying and dismantling it. Though the children get the opportunity to have a special day, it is the same day for all of them; they don’t really understand what a birthday really is and what they’re missing out on.”
The survey found that, on average, children in the UK attended up to five birthday parties in the last year, with 21% going to over six parties, and 7% going to 11 or more. A quarter of the parents surveyed (25%) said they’d spent over £100 on presents for their children’s friends in the last year, with some (1%) revealing that they had spent over £1000.
Georgette Mulheir, continues: “When I go into an institution one of the first things I’ll do is engage with individual children and ask them a little bit about themselves. Often, one of the first questions I ask is when their birthday is and when I first started to do this it came as a huge shock to repeatedly hear them say 1 June. I quickly realised that this was because the children just didn’t know their own birth dates and have never been given the chance to celebrate them properly.
“Light a Birthday Candle for Lumos shines a light on these forgotten children and asks people to remember them by raising money to support our work. I hope that thousands of people will get involved in the campaign on 1 June and make a birthday wish for each of these children to have the family, the care and the individual identity that they so deserve, and that they so desperately want.”
Broadcaster Kirsty Young, who is supporting the campaign, said: “As a mum of two girls I know the joy that a birthday brings. This June please throw your own party in aid of Lumos and light a birthday candle for the thousands of children across Europe who are growing up without a family.”
Lumos is encouraging everyone, including families, teachers and community groups, and employees in the workplace, to host their own cake and candle-themed fundraising events, from Tea & Cake parties for friends, family and children to Bake & Take events at work. Supporters can also donate online or text LABC£2 to 70070.
To find out more about Light a Birthday Candle for Lumos go to www.lightabirthdaycandle.org.uk to purchase a virtual candle and find inspiring recipe ideas, as well as other birthday tea party fundraising hints and tips. The funds raised by this campaign will go towards Lumos’ work, helping move children out of residential institutions and into family-based care, so that next year many more children will be able to celebrate their birthday properly.