Birthday parties are a hot topic for tweens! Almost all the students we have worked with in GirlPower & GoodGuys have, at some point, had hurt feelings over a birthday party. For both the kids handing out the invitations and the kids receiving them, birthday parties are stressful… and they’re stressful for parents too!
Why are they so anxiety-provoking? Well, there are a few reasons:
- As children enter tweenhood, parents are no longer renting a bouncy castle and inviting the whole class. Parents begin to limit birthday parties to a smaller circle saying things like, “You can invite 3 friends this year!”
- Sleepovers are often introduced and, let’s face it… there are only a certain number of kids that parents and kids can handle overnight. With Friendship Fact #2, Every Friendship is Different, kids are highly aware that the friends they are comfortable having over for a sleepover may not be the same friends they’d work on the Science project with.
- All children want to be included and, as they move into pre-adolescence, they become more aware of popularity and fitting in. This results in kids developing FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and they are desperate to be part of the gang.
- Kids seem to think there’s an unwritten rule: If someone invites you to their party, you must invite them to your party. The more parties they’ve been invited to, the more kids they feel obligated to invite. With years of birthday parties under their belt, that’s a lot of kids and a lot of pressure to invite people they perhaps do not want to.
So, what can kids and parents do to take some of the stress out of tween birthday parties? While it’s not fool-proof and being left out is inevitable sometimes, here is what we recommend over at GirlPower & GoodGuys to minimize the sleepless nights and hurt feelings:
- Invitations must be sent privately! We encourage children to email their invitation to their friend, personally deliver it to their mailbox, or extend their invitation over the phone or in person. School is not a private place and because of the reasons listed above, kids talk and word travels like wildfire in those hallways and classrooms.
- If the party is limited to a certain number of people, let the invitees know who is also invited. This is so that children don’t accidentally talk about it in front of someone who’s not on the list and so they’re not tempted to go around solving the mystery. Believe me, if they don’t know who’s going, curiosity will get the best of them and they’ll try to find out!
- Remind your child that keeping the event on the down-low applies to their online world as well. Posting pics of the party on Instagram or Snapping their friends who aren’t there is definitely going to result in someone feeling left-out. In this day and age, digital etiquette needs to be discussed and kids sometimes forget that their social platforms are in the spotlight!
As kids enter into tweenhood, it’s really important that parents prepare their children for this new landscape of birthday parties and help them understand they can no longer expect to be invited to every.single.party. Those days are over! Share a story with your child about a time you were not invited to something and it was no big deal. Yeah, nobody likes to be on the outside looking in, but this is not a deal-breaker. This is a normal part of life and doesn’t mean their friendship is over or that person doesn’t like them us as much.
Helping children to not take it personal and be cool with the fact that we all have different friends helps to ease some of the pressure that children feel so they can focus on more important things…like learning the words to a new Tay-Tay song (#squadgoals), mastering their MineCraft world, watching StarWars, or sending poop emojis to their friends just to confuse them. Important stuff like that. 😉
This article was originally published on urstrong.com.
About Dana Kerford
Dana Kerford is a teacher, friendship expert, author and the founder of URSTRONG, an internationally recognized social-emotional wellbeing program for children. With extensive research on relational aggression and conflict resolution, Dana developed a skills-based friendship curriculum for girls, GirlPower, in 2009 and launched the brother program, GoodGuys, in June 2014. In 2016, after attending a special invitation to the White House to participate in a conference on gender equality, she designed and launched URSTRONG’s co-educational curriculum. Dana and her team of Licensed Presenters have worked with over fifty thousand tweens, parents and educators across North America and Australia and have been featured in magazines, newspapers and on television programs. Dana's passion to empower children with the skills, language, and self-confidence to be better friends and develop healthier friendships is the heart and soul of URSTRONG.