Written by: Cally Worden
Since when did kids’ parties become such a minefield? Back in the day, it was all about fun – you invited a bunch of kids over for a few simple games, fed them jelly and ice cream and gave them a balloon and slice of cake to go home with. You weren’t public enemy number one if you failed to invite the entire class, most guests came armed with a small gift that was always appreciated, but if they didn’t it wasn’t an issue.
Ahh, life was simple. Back in the day. Even so, there has always been a need for sensitivity where kids’ parties are concerned. No one wants to feel left out like Cinderella after all. So how can you keep things sensible if you’re throwing a party and help your child if they are excluded?
Ignore the Joneses
It can be tough to stand out from the crowd, but just because other parents are splashing out on lavish parties where all and sundry are invited it doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. You don’t want to create playground problems for your child, take a view on numbers in line with your budget.
Perceived parental wisdom seems to suggest that either you invite everyone, or keep the numbers small. It’s when you start picking and choosing that the friendship battles can begin, excluding just a few children from your child’s class would be pretty mean.
Talk with your child about whom their special friends are. Keep a mental note of those who come and go from your child’s world. In most cases, you will end up with a list of 2-3 core friends, with a slightly wider circle of 5-6 who your child interacts with on a regular basis. This gives you the option of inviting a small number, without running the risk of alienating your child from the rest of the class.
Consider a Gender Split
The viability of this will depend on the nature of your child’s friendships and play habits. Some girls may well have friends who are boys (or boyfriends!) they would want to be included. Similarly, some boys may want girls along, where others would prefer a footie themed party where girls are absolutely excluded. Let your child take the lead on this.
When your Child Wants to Exclude Someone
This is tricky. There is a boy who hangs around with my son’s friendship group, but who none of them really like to play with. My son wanted to exclude this lad from his recent party so I overruled him. I think it’s important to teach our kids empathy, I encouraged my son to imagine how he would feel if all his little friends were invited somewhere and he wasn’t. He’s only young, but this is important stuff. In the end the boy came, played on his own a lot, irritated the other boys some of the time, but seemed to enjoy himself. And afterwards, my son actually said he felt okay about him being there. It made him feel like he’d done a nice thing.
On the other hand, if the child to be excluded was one who had been bullying and making my child’s life a misery, then I would absolutely support their desire to leave that individual out. Each situation is different; you should consider it on its own merits.
The Sibling Dilemma
Some parents will take advantage of your hosting their child for an afternoon and suggest that their child’s sibling would enjoy the party too … I’m sure they would, but if every parent took this view you could easily end up with 30-40 kids to cater for and manage. In my view, that’s not on. I succumbed to pressure on this one year for my daughter. Never again! If the parents are staying however, it’s a different call. It can be tough to stand your ground on this without feeling like you’re being churlish, but honestly, if you feel strongly about it the benefit of saying ‘No!’ will far outweigh any discomfort you experience in doing so!
If your Child is the One Excluded
This is one of life’s lessons that we all have to learn at some point – you won’t always be wanted. As your child goes through school the number of parties they are excluded from will increase naturally – there aren’t many post-primary (or even later primary) parties where all the kids are invited.
Help your child to see that they will get invites to other parties that some kids don’t, that (hopefully) they are not the only one excluded. If they have been singled out, you can do no more than offer compassion and support, maybe plan a fun activity with your child on the day of the party to help distract them. Often there is no logic to exclusions, so try help your child by pointing out how proud you are of them for the way they are handling the disappointment. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. And all that.