Kids' Birthday Invitation Etiquette Not So Clear Cut

Does it have to be such a chore?

You are cordially invited to help celebrate….


Making the birthday party invite list continues to be a source of joy and tears on the playground.

When my daughter was in kindergarten the birthday etiquette was to invite all the girls in the class to the party. I remember more than 25 five and six year olds at a gymnastics party. The party was a success; there were no hurt feelings.

My daughter’s birthday is in December — a hectic month — and she shared the month with five other girls in her grade. We moms would phone each other and coordinate the scheduling of our children’s parties so that there was no double-booking or conflict.

Economic times were better, it wasn't a financial burden to host a big kiddie birthday celebration. In the early grades your child is still making friends and birthday parties were an opportunity to meet the parents of classmates and make connections.

By third grade your child has their own opinion on who they want at their party and who is persona non grata.

I believe it is us moms who suffer the pain of being excluded from a birthday party more than our children. We get angry that our kid didn't make the cut, but is it our suppressed emotions of our being left out when we were children resurfacing when our children face a similar fate?  

It is definitely a gender thing. Boys don’t seem to care or pay attention to who is having a party and if they made the A list. With girls it can jeopardize their friendships — as well as their mothers' friendships — if the invite doesn't come.

Some moms choose not to have big birthday parties with classmates so they don’t have to pick and choose who to invite. They save the cash and potential social awkwardness.

There are consequences in the neutral zone: Some children are invited to parties simply because parents are reciprocating invites their child received and has nothing to do with real friendship.

What can you do as a parent to prevent the tears and disappointment if the invite does not arrive in the inbox?

Why not give your child the gift of advice? Teach your children that they will not be invited to every event and that it does not mean they are not liked or unpopular.

Take your emotions out of the situation. It's not a status symbol to have your child invited to birthday parties. As long as your child has one friend who makes them happy and supports them emotionally they've got the best present they can receive.

So, is there a solution to the age old problem of who to invite?

Probably not, but I envy the leap year day birthday parents — you only have to deal with this birthday party dilemma every four years.

Crystal March 03, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Curious to hear what parents think of the somewhat new trend - sending invitations to school with your child. There is, of course, a convenience factor and it's also less expensive (no postage). But I believe it could alienate children on a deeper and unnecessary level - as their peers cheer and run around excited with invitations in hand. Thoughts? Elena Neitlich, Etiquette Moms
Susan March 03, 2012 at 06:08 PM
It seems like such an unkind thing to do to save some money. Just hand deliver to a home if money is tight or email or call. Of course, who's to say if the invitees will respond in a timely manner? That's another etiquette question, don't you think?
Melissa Bakalis-Milbank March 04, 2012 at 02:09 PM
I think this bothers many parents more than the kids. And when the parents worry the kids think that they should worry too. I agree with the writer that children should be allowed to be comfortable with their true friends and not concern themselves with who gets to do what. Besides....by next year these "birthday party" friends will be long gone. There is enough reasons for kids to have self-doubt now in the world. Let them be happy with the lives they are making for themselves.
Jennifer Manteau March 04, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Last year I offered my 11 year old daughter an alternative to a big party (which would have been a sleepover with who knows how many kids). We went shopping together and had a great time picking out new clothes for school. We spent some much coveted quality time together and she got some great things she loves to wear. She sees her friends so much on a daily basis that she was fine with giving up the party for a shopping spree with Mom. Lucky me!


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