Navigating Birthday Parties
Attending a birthday party can be a wonderful and exciting time for children, but it can also be stressful when it comes to appropriate behaviors and social skills. In an effort to help your child be successful when they attend a birthday party, here are some useful suggestions:
Review basic manners: “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome.” Discuss with your child times when they might use these manners and role play scenarios as needed. For example: “May I please have a glass of juice?” “Thank you for the piece of cake.” “You’re welcome for the gift.” “Thank you for inviting me to the party.”
Review basic manners related to politely declining something they do not like or want: “No thank you, I don’t want any ice cream” versus “I hate that flavor of ice cream”.
Discuss how this is the friend’s special day. We tell the friend happy birthday and help them feel special. Our friend gets attention and presents, not the guests. We let our friend open their own gifts and decide on the activities for the party.
Discuss when we’re invited to a party we participate in the party activities. We join in the games, watch the friend open presents, and eat cake with the other guests.
For a child who tends to feel anxious, identify an adult who they could talk to or ask a question of, if they are uncertain about something during the party.
Make sure to involve your child in picking out and wrapping the friend’s gift and making a card. Also let the child pick out, or help pick out, his or her party outfit. This gives them a sense of ownership and investment in the occasion and helps them to feel excited about the party.
Discuss when the party is over we thank our friend for inviting us to the party and wish them a happy birthday.
As your child prepares for an upcoming party, you can role play certain aspects of the party, especially if your child struggles with any particular activity or skill. For example, practice sitting at an appropriate distance while someone else opens a present. Or declining a food item they do not enjoy. And remember to praise your child for a job well done after the party!
Call us for details: In Sioux Falls, 605-444-9700. In Sioux City, 712-226-ABLE (2253). In Rapid City, 605-791-7400.
-Jaime Hudson, PhD, Aimee Deliramich, PhD, and Emma Ranum, MA