Vrinda Bhatt recalls her son's fifth birthday party. She says, "We had taken so much trouble to organize the party for Kaushik's birthday. I had called all the building children and his whole class from school. We spent a lot of money hiring professional entertainers and a caterer. But for some reason Kaushik was miserable. He was cranky and sulky. He didn't want to eat anything or play with the other children. He was just clinging to me and whining."
Birthday parties have such positive associations. They make you think of cake, your favourite foods, being made a fuss over and of course, lots of presents. Children and even some adults wait the whole year for their birthdays, imagining what a good time they are going to have and how perfect it will be. But what often happens is when there are such great expectations, the real thing is often a let-down.
There is so much hype surrounding birthday parties these days. Parents today believe it's the done thing to invite everybody and their cousin and hire clubs and professionals to run the show so that they can sit back and relax. Somehow, friendly little parties at home with mountains of homemade sandwiches, wafers and cake have become passe. Parents tend to lose sight of the fact that it is a party meant to make their children feel special on a special day.
When birthday parties for children become a social event, the children's high expectations are wound to a fever pitch. When the great day arrives and they are faced with a roomful of distracted adults and children screaming and running in different directions, the excitement often translates into tears and withdrawal. Suddenly all the attention becomes unwelcome and they want to cling to the familiar. However, parents are not the most sympathetic people on such occasions, as they cannot understand how the children can behave so churlishly when they've taken all this trouble to organize a wonderful party. In addition, all those tempting presents are out of bounds till the party is over. It's no wonder then that the children feel overwhelmed and frustrated. They ask themselves who's really having fun at their party, because it definitely isn't them.
Tips to ensure that your child enjoys his own party
- Do not use your child's birthday as an excuse to return invitations to friends and colleagues. Focus on the fact that the party is for your child, not an occasion for you to hijack to serve your own purposes.
- Consider your child's temperament when planning the celebrations. Some children are shy and retiring and their idea of fun does not include having a huge party and having to deal with so many people at the same time.
- If you have a child who prefers small intimate gatherings, you can make the day special for her by involving her in the preparations. May be she can help butter the sandwiches or blow the balloons.
- Keep the number of guests to a manageable figure so that you have time to pay attention to your child and make him feel special instead of spending all your time running around playing the good host.
- Presents are often a bone of contention. Your child is bound to want to rip them open as soon as he can get his hands on them. Remind him that if he opens his presents before the other children have gone, he is probably going to have to share them with the others. And if he doesn't want to do that, he has to be prepared to wait.
- If your child misbehaves or exhibits bad manners during the party, do not yell at him in front of the other guests and humiliate him. Take him aside for a quiet word in his ear.
- Tell the child what to expect in advance. Maybe there'll be games first, followed by the cutting of the cake and finally the opening of presents.