real life

Should handing out birthday invitations be banned in schools?

We've all been through it...consoling a distressed child who was left off the invite list for the latest birthday party. We do our best to explain why it may have occurred:

* Their parents may have told them they weren't allowed to invite everyone;

* You don't have to invite them to your birthday party;

* It's not because they don't like you;

* Don't worry about it. You have friends who invite you. You can't be expected to be invited to every party.

However some schools have taken the dramatic step of banning the handing out of birthday invitations at school to try and protect the feelings of those children who aren't invited to some parties.

The schools in question say they are trying to instil kindness in their students through the move.

But are they taking away children's opportunity to become resilient?

This topic caused immediate debate between iVillage editor Alana House and writer Jo Abi, who completely disagree on this subject. Here's what they had to say, then tell us: What do you think?

Jo says...

I know life can be hard for children. I have vicious memories of my own childhood, of being teased at school, of being left out of activities and told I wasn't allowed to play with certain groups of so-called friends.

Watching my nine-year-old son Philip go through similar experiences is painful, but I feel these experiences are necessary to help him grow into a well-rounded person.

School isn't just for academic pursuits. School is also the perfect opportunity for children to learn resilience. By learning how to deal with feelings like embarrassment and distress, I am equipping him to deal with similar negative emotions later in life.

Harsh, I know, but as Doctor Phil always says, you can't protect your children from hardship but you can teach them to cope with it.

Just because schools ban the handing out of invitations during school hours doesn't mean they won't be left out of activities outside of school hours. Students will hand invitations out at other times.

Children will still need to learn to deal with the feeling of being left out of an exciting activity.

The first time Philip wasn't invited to a party he was shocked. In Kindergarten most of the mums excitedly invited the entire class, or at least all the boys for boy parties and all the girls for girl parties. However financial constraints and the stress of organising parties for large groups of children means this can't always be sustained.

"His mummy probably told him he wasn't allowed to invite many people, only close friends."

"But we are close friends."

"It would have been hard for him to decide. Don't worry about it. You will have to do the same thing when it comes to your birthday party. It's not easy but you need to try and understand and hopefully they'll understand too."

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Now, years after that first incident, he has learned that he won't always be included in every activity. When he is included he feels so excited. When he isn't include he feels disappointed and sad, and we talk through.

We should never remove our children's opportunity to learn resilience by being overprotective of their feelings.

Alana says...

My youngest has a birthday party coming up and I’m arguing with her about who to invite. I’m from the “invite all the girls in your class so no-one feels left out” school. But my youngest is fiercely objecting to several girls who’ve been mean to her coming along.

So I’ve told her she’s not allowed to hand out invitations at school. Handing out invitations at school carries quite a bit of cache and she’s a bit pouty about missing out. But I’m standing firm. If not everyone in the class is invited, I don’t want anyone’s feelings hurt.

I’ll be sending them electronically to the parents.

When I mentioned my stand to another mum in the playground, she was more in the “that’s the way the world turns, toughen up” camp.

So I told her that I’m still scarred by an incident in the playground when the eldest was in kindy. A girl in her class – who I’d been cheerily told was her best friend – had a fat pile of white envelopes that she was handing out. Kids were clustered around eagerly.

Since my eldest had told me the little girl was her best friend I hung around for her invite. The little girl checked the pile and said there wasn’t one. I’m embarrassed to say I told her to look again. Still nothing. My eldest went and sat on the other side of the playground looking forlorn. Another little girl stood there desperately begging to be invited.

I went home and cried. Possibly an over-reaction on my part, but I was haunted by my daughter’s sad little face for weeks afterwards.

And I resolved never to do that to anyone else’s child (or their mother).

Mind you I’ve hardened up considerably and there are some mean little misses I quite happily leave off the invitation list these days. But I will never rub their little faces in it. Because I am better than that.

Ah, it’s always a worry when you start talking tactics in your wars against seven-year-olds. Oh, and don’t get me started on the 10-year-olds I’d like to trip on the asphalt …

What do you think? Should schools ban the handing out of invitations in schools?

Bright colours, pots of gold, blue skies… what’s not to love about a rainbow birthday party? Especially when one of these gorgeous cakes takes centre stage. We're obsessed, and we've rounded up recipes and easy-peasy tips for recreating them without the fuss.

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