Not getting an invite to another child’s birthday party can be a “devastating experience” for kids, a leading child psychotherapist has said.
Much like in the adult world, a whole range of factors influence who gets a party invite and exclusion can be just as upsetting.
Columnist Jen Horgan said, in her experience, it is the same type of children who are consistently not invited to social events outside of school.
“The one thing that keeps coming up every time I speak to parents about it is this whole idea of exclusion,” she told Josh Crosbie for Newstalk Breakfast.
“A commonly occurring thing is that the same children are left out all the time and when you talk to the parents, you’ll often find out these children have additional needs – they’re particularly shy or they’re neurodivergent.”
Ms Hogan said many children do not understand the politics of children’s parties and it is up to parents to teach them how to be “inclusive and kind and to lead by example.”
'You can’t force people to include them'
Child psychotherapist Dr Colman Noctor said the parents of children who do not get invites often get upset as well because there is not much they can do to make the situation better.
“For the parents of children who are excluded, it’s very difficult to support that child because much of what you say as a parent can be challenged by the fact that their friends are rejecting them,” he said.
“It’s important to try and find them a way to protect their self-worth, to remind them of their own value and oftentimes, if you can, the advice is to find their tribe even outside of a school environment.
“But the challenge is, you can’t force people to include them and that makes parents feel very, very helpless.”
Dr Noctor urged parents who are organising any child’s party to take the feelings of other children into account.
“For me, the key is the parents of the child who is doing the excluding,” he said.
“They’re the ones who can make a difference and for children who are excluded, it can be a very devastating experience to be excluded from their peer group.”
'Big class parties are brilliant'
Outside the gates of one school, one mother said she agreed inclusivity is the best way to approach a child’s party.
“I think it really helps when the school has a policy on it,” she said.
“We’ve been in a couple of schools and one school had a policy where either everybody or nobody gets invited.”
Another said she thought children really enjoy socialising with their class outside of school hours.
“I find, certainly, the big class parties are brilliant for them - even if they’re a pain for the parent, they’re good for the kids,” she said.
Main image: A child's birthday party.