No invitation? How to prepare your child for birthday party disappointments

16 March 2017

It’s the conversation we all fear, when the most precious person in your life comes to you with their eyes wide asking: “why didn’t I get invited to the birthday party?”

The question leaves a pit in your stomach, the familiar feeling of social disappointment you hoped never to experience again, but you know it well – we all do.

In fact, dealing with rejection is an important life lesson in resilience, but when the inevitable happens – and it will happen – to your child, all you want to do is wrap them in your arms and tell them everything will be ok.

According to Michael Grose of Parenting Ideas, however, the best way to approach the life lesson of dealing with rejection, particularly when it comes to the often dreaded birthday party invitation list, is to treat it as a challenge rather than a problem.

“One of the keys to functioning socially and emotionally is the ability to deal with disappointment and rejection,” he says.

“One study found that even popular children were rejected about one quarter of the time when they approached children in school.

“Parents can help children understand that rejection may happen for any number of reasons that are unrelated to them. Your attitude can make a huge difference to how a child reacts.

“If you see rejection or disappointments as problems then your child will be hamstrung by this view. See them as challenges then your child will, in all likelihood, pick up your upbeat view and deal with disappointments easily. After all, confidence is catching!”

While it may seem tricky to see the positive in a negative, one way to spin a birthday party rejection is to teach your child empathy, by exposing them to the point of view of the invitee.

Emma Jenner, Author of Keep Calm and Parent On, says that being on all sides of the guest list can help children to better understand and deal with disappointment.

“Nobody likes being left out. Rejection and disappointment sting, but learning how to push through them is an absolutely essential life lesson,” she writes in the Huffington Post.

“Being on all three sides of a guest list – inviter, invited and uninvited – can help children not only become more resilient, but also more conscientious and empathetic.

“It’s up to parents to use parties as opportunities for chats about friendship, kindness and etiquette.”

For example, when you’re arranging a birthday party for your child it’s important to be thoughtful about the delivery of non-inclusive news to those who may not be invited.

“It’s a good life lesson for a child to learn that they can’t be invited to everything. But not being invited to a party shouldn’t make a child feel isolated or humiliated,” Michael Grose says.

“Disappointment is normal; humiliation and alienation are not acceptable. Which means children need to give out invitations while being mindful of the feelings of others. This is where good parenting comes in.

“We need to remind, and if necessary teach children, how to give out invitations sensitively being mindful of the possible disappointment that some children will experience.

“Tolerance and social graces are the foundations of a civil society and these lessons start in primary school.”

Here are our top 5 tips for dealing with birthday party disappointments:

  1. Be positive, turn the problem into a challenge
  2. See it as an important life lesson in resilience rather than a personal attack
  3. Provide your child with the opportunity to see parties from all sides of the guest list
  4. Encourage your child to be empathetic and kind when handing out their own birthday invitations
  5. Approach it as an opportunity to discuss tolerance and social etiquette with your child
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