This week I’m answering a reader question about birthday party etiquette – more specifically about what is realistic and reasonable regarding invitees.
As with all parenting decisions, there are two sides to this debate. Some parents are so worried about leaving children out or hurting someone’s feelings that they go above and beyond when it comes to planning their child’s party.
These parents will go ‘all out’, and invite all of their friends, family, neighbours, etc.
And then there is the other extreme. What about those parents who tend to give little thought to their invitees? Or allow their children to decide, from an extremely young age, who they want to have at their party?
So what is the proper birthday party etiquette once our children reach school age? Do we invite the whole class? All the girls or all the boys? How can we ensure that we behave ‘appropriately’ without breaking the bank?
Invitations, or lack of invitations, often become extremely exclusive in both preschool and elementary school. At this age, since most of our children’s friends come from school, who has made it on the guest list is often widespread conversation on the playground.
So to invite or not to invite? Parents need to keep in mind the effects that their decisions have on their children and on their children’s classmates. Things may come back to haunt them down the road. The decisions we make about our children’s social life today could contribute to whether they are included at a classmate’s party in 6 or 8 months.
But in reality, it is not always possible to invite everyone in the class, especially when you still need to factor in family and friends from the neighbourhood.
So what are parents to do?
Use party planning as a meaningful learning experience for children.
With my own children, I try to use birthday party etiquette as a social skills learning tool. When composing the guest list, I remind my kids that they need to be considerate of others’ feeling. I try to have them envision being in the shoes of the child who is being left out, and then I have them describe as best they can, how the other child might feel.
These social skills develop on an on-going basis and planning a birthday party is an excellent ‘foot in the door’ for this type of learning. Children need to learn from an early age what is socially appropriate.
The following guidelines might help minimize the pressures faced by many families:
These rules change as we get older. After all, are we expected to invite all of our co-workers or our neighbours out to lunch, or to celebrate a milestone with us? Of course not. And as adults, there is an expectation that the feeling of being excluded would not sting to the same extent. Children’s minds don’t work this way. Children remember when they are not included, and they often feel the repercussions of it long after the party has occurred.
No matter what birthday-party path you choose, it is imperative that you keep in mind that the decisions you make on behalf of your kids when they are little, can ultimately impact the parties they get invited to as they get older. Before the invitations go out, try to envision your child in the position of being the one who is excluded.
Wouldn’t we hate for our child to be the one who gets excluded because of decisions we make?
Photo: © Mkoudis | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos
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