With her birthday coming up, your six-year-old is thinking back on previous classmates’ birthday parties, and each bash is more lavish than the one before. But you have decided there’s a limit and that it’s time to restore a sensible balance. The only problem is your child is unlikely to agree. Birthday party envy means that she expects such extravagance every year. You need to manage her expectations for a huge event, and still make that special day just as meaningful – on a budget.
Bear in mind that her longing is partly driven by peer pressure; she doesn’t simply want a big event just for the sake of it. Peer acceptance is very important at this age. She wants to be part of the crowd, and dreads the thought of her party becoming a talking point among her friends because it was frugal.
This matters a great deal to her (because she fears her popularity will drop if her classmates think she is different from them). And she also wants to reciprocate the generous hospitality she has received from others. She may worry that a party made on a budget might be interpreted as meanness.
MEET ME HALFWAY
The first step in sensible party planning is to establish what sort of event she has in mind and why she wants her party to be like this. Seems obvious enough, but you may be tempted to give a knee-jerk reaction (either “yes” because you want her to be happy, or “no” because you think it is too costly).
Instead, make her justify her request, even if her explanation is the expected: “All the birthday parties I have been to are like that.” This forces her to think more deeply about herself, and also gives you a starting point for discussion.
The next stage is to explain your views. For example, you feel it will be too expensive or you think the money could be better spent. She won’t like what you’ll say, yet your comments will help her learn that she can’t always get what she wants.
Then sit down and plan the party together, with a positive attitude. Look at all the things she wants to happen (for instance, a big cake, lots of decorations, party bags bursting with toys and sweets) and consider ways these could be achieved without spending a huge amount of money.
A cake can be made, iced and decorated at home (not bought), invitations can be handmade, and goodie bags for guests can have smaller, less expensive items. The children can play games at home or at the void deck instead of going to a theme park or indoor playground.
Through this discussion, you and she will reach a compromise eventually. She will accept that there are alternatives to the scale and style of the party she envisaged.
IT’S NOT THE COST THAT COUNTS
In addition, explain to your child that what makes a party enjoyable isn’t how much it costs but the planning beforehand, the organisation and the party atmosphere on the day. Reassure her that her friends will have a great time, even though the event will be on a strict budget.
The more she is involved in choosing the games, food, drinks and gifts for the guests, the less she’ll focus on how lavish it is and the more fun she’ll have. Point out that if she is enthusiastic on the day, it will be a great success. Her friends will enjoy themselves, especially if it is not the usual experience. She’ll realise that a party on a budget can be meaningful and special.