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Issues: Perplexing party problems

Published on: July 01, 2008

Pouting party girlYou’ve planned your kids’ birthday party to a T; you’ve covered all the bases: invitations, decorations, food, games, goody bags — all good to go. So, no more worries, right?

Maybe not! Even the best party planner can’t foresee every conundrum and quandary that may arise when others become involved. From the birthday kid to her guests, your family, friends and extended relations, people make the world — and parties! — go ‘round, and they can add a measure of stress to these gatherings. Here’s a look at some of the stickier party problems, and a few good ways to handle them.

Birthday child + birthday guests

Sometimes a party seems overwhelming to a child. This could be for any number of reasons: so many activities, so many kids, not being the center of attention or being the center of attention. To help your kids learn how to behave at parties, you need to prepare. Take the time to let your child know what is going to happen at the party, role-play a few scenes (such as gift opening) to teach how to give and receive presents with grace, and how to be welcoming to all guests, not just her best friend.

If your child is shy while attending birthday parties, gently encourage her to only attend those parties of her closest friends. Once at the party, if your child is younger than age 6, it is perfectly acceptable to stay with her and encourage her to participate in the crafts, games and activities. This encouragement may be what she needs to get comfortable. However, if she still hovers close, give her the space she needs and don’t force her to participate.

Here’s a common party quandary: The parent of one of your party guests is late in picking him up. What can you do to avoid this situation from happening?

  • Make sure the party’s start and end times are clearly written on your invitation.
  • When parents RSVP, mention the time the party ends to reinforce the pick-up time.
  • Make certain when the parent drops off her child that you have her contact information.
  • If the parent is very late, feel free to call or have the child call her parent.

Family + friends

Friends can often be very helpful when planning kids’ parties, but what happens if your friend invites a bunch of her friends to your kids’ party — without asking you? If you find out before the party, ask her directly to not invite any more of her friends. Explain the party is for your child, and you don’t feel comfortable having people you don’t know attend. If friends of friends just show up at the party, there is little that you can do. But you can later discuss it directly with your friend, or simply consider it a lesson learned.

Another problem: A child who’s been invited your kids’ party has been sick recently, but is planning to attend your party. You don’t want your guests exposed to anything contagious. What to do?

In this situation, a direct phone call works best. Be matter of fact. Tell the parent that you are concerned that others may become sick if their child attends the party. If the parent can’t satisfy your concerns (e.g., by telling you their child is now on antibiotics), ask them not to attend. On this same call, however, mention getting together another time, so they know you want to share time with them once they are well again.

Here’s a toughie: A family member who is particularly rude must be invited to your party. Follow these steps to handle your guest:

  • Do not avoid inviting this person to your party. If he is a member of your family, it will seem odd if he doesn’t receive an invitation.
  • Think about your relationship with this person. Would you be able to have a conversation with him expressing your concerns? If so, be positive and state your expectations clearly.
  • If you can’t have this conversation, try to invite someone who gets along well with this person, and keep the two together whenever possible.
  • If the problem is rude behavior to others, give him a role at the party. He will be too busy helping out to cause trouble.
  • Let go and let be. If this person is a family member, most likely other guests will understand and be forgiving.

Lisa Kothari is the founder and president of Peppers and Pollywogs, a kids’ party planning company that provides parents with ideas, entertainers and interesting Web-based tools to make kids’ party planning easy. She’s the author of Dear Peppers and Pollywogs…What Parents Want to Know About Planning Their Kids’ Parties, available at and

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