Let’s face it. There will come a time in your child’s life, usually somewhere around 6-9 years old, when the whispering word on the playground about little Timmy’s birthday next weekend will seemingly include everyone but your child. Truth is, your child is not invited and you have to help him understand.
With the average class size for elementary public schools at 20.3 students, it is safe to presume that many parents, despite their child wanting to invite “everyone but the stinky kid,” must draw the line of invited guests or accept the idea that twenty children –or 200 little fingers–will take command of their home for 120 minutes (or more, because that ONE parent is ALWAYS late).
While as adults we understand the rationale, children do not comprehend. They feel rejection, hurt, cast-off and isolated. They may minimize their feelings of being hurt or sad and instead, act out, withdraw or give a tough upper lip and say “it’s no big deal.” But, it is.
When your child isn’t invited to a birthday party, he or she may not initially tell you. They may come home from school sullen or mopey, snippy or down. When your child does mention the birthday party and that he was not invited, you have an opportunity to teach the lost art of grace.
Grace, whether as an adult who was not invited to the co-workers’ happy hour or the child who was not invited to the birthday party, is the ability to handle situations with style. I have not understood why some parents feel the need to plan a different activity when the party is occurring to “distract” the child from the idea that the party he wasn’t invited to is underway. The fact is, the child is hurt. His feelings are hurt, his little ego is hurt and he feels rejection.
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What can you do to help your child understand? We found three new ideas that worked well in our home and those of many friends. The next time your child is not invited to a classmates party, try these:
1) Help your child accept the feelings of sadness and the feeling of left out. Then, take him back to a time when he was included in an event or activity yet others were not. This allows the child to not only remember the feeling of inclusion, be develop an understanding of how others feel.
2) When doing an event either as a family or with a small group, stop and “smell the roses,” reminding the child that not everyone has the same opportunity at the same time, even if at all. This is life lesson that should be taught very early on. Whether it’s taking your child to the movies or doing a field trip with Scouts, casually pointing out to your child by saying something like “that’s really great you were able to join the Scouts on today’s trip to the Zoo. Not all kids are able to be a member of the Scouts” will continue to reinforce that not everyone is included all the time.
3) Dealing with the at-school effect can be difficult. For children who were not invited, listening to others as they express joy and anticipation for the upcoming event can be painful. Teaching your child to acknowledge their hurt but wishing others well is a great way to help them become stronger and self-empowered. “I’m sad I wasn’t invited to your party, Timmy, but I understand not everyone can go. Happy Birthday.”
While not easy, these few ideas will help children become grateful and courteous as they encounter other instances in life. In the age of “everyone gets a trophy,” a child reared well today becomes a more compassionate adult tomorrow.
Have you had a situation where your child was not invited? How did you handle the situation? Send us a note, we would love to hear from you and possibly share your story.
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