Who to invite to a child's party without making anyone feel left out

As Lucy Gonia's 4th birthday approached, her mother started to worry about which of her classmates the family should invite to the party.

The decision was complicated because some of the children in Lucy's preschool class had hosted parties and invited the entire class. The youngster also attends her school's after-care program and has befriended kids in other classes.

But Lucy's parents were planning a fairy-tale-themed party at a teahouse and they knew the atmosphere would be very girly.

The family wasn't trying to exclude boys, but they worried the boys in the class might not enjoy the party theme, said Lucy's mother, Lindsay Sestile.

"I didn't want anyone to feel like I left their kid out," said the Clintonville resident.

So Sestile sent an email to the entire class laying out the situation and asking for feedback.

"We figure most boys won't want to attend a tea party, but we also don't want to exclude anyone who would otherwise be interested," Sestile wrote the parents. "At the same time, we don't want to invite a bunch of kids who won't want to attend but whose parents will feel obligated."

Sestile heard back from several parents.

"The overall consensus was boys probably wouldn't be that interested in going to a teahouse," she said.

She invited all the girls in Lucy's class and all the girls in the after-
care program. The solution seemed to suit everyone, said Sestile, who believes emailing the parents helped her make a decision that prevented hurt feelings.

Making other parents aware of your decision process can make a difference, said Tiffany Jones, director of the Little Lambs Children's Center in Gahanna.

Handling party invitations is a real learning opportunity, she said. If parents are aware that their child is not going to receive an invitation, they're better prepared to help their little one deal with the disappointment, Jones said.

It can also be a life lesson for children who are hosting parties. They may be disappointed that their parents' budgets or homes cannot accommodate as many guests as they'd like, she added.

Children also have to be taught to consider the feelings of their classmates whom they did not invite. Jones suggested telling a child not to discuss a party in front of uninvited friends.

"As parents we can help our kids through these (situations)," she said. "We can help kids process it the right way."

Tips for minimizing hurt feelings at party time:
•Let the parents of uninvited children know you are hosting a small gathering and had to limit the guest list. Be honest if budget or space issues prevented you from hosting a larger party.
•If it's your child who isn't invited, explain that not everyone can be included in every event and this doesn't mean he or she is not friends with the birthday boy or girl.
•If you're disappointed that your child wasn't invited, do not communicate this to your child.
Source: Tiffany Jones, director of Little Lambs Children's Center