Salisbury Press

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Respectfully Yours

Tuesday, March 6, 2018 by JACQUELYN YOUST Special to The Press in Focus

Dear Jacquelyn,

I’m struggling with children’s birthday party etiquette. My daughter will be eight in March, and we are planning a party. This year, my daughter would like to invite children from school, which I think would be fun. How do we decide who to invite, the length of the party, and the best time to open gifts? I’d like to use this opportunity to teach my daughter how to be a gracious party host.

Dear Reader,

Birthday parties make perfect etiquette classrooms because there are many opportunities to teach manners. Birthday etiquette for a child’s party is not complicated and it’s simple to follow. The goal of birthday etiquette is to make sure your child’s party will be fun and enjoyable for the birthday girl and her guests.

As soon as you start planning, include your child in the process. Teach your child from a young age to be a gracious host. Put her in charge of greeting friends at the door and encourage her to introduce friends to one another. Teach the birthday child to hand out favors, and to say good-bye and thank-you to each guest.

Be patient. These habits take time to learn. After hosting and attending enough parties, the protocol will be comfortable and come naturally.

And, it’s never too early to involve your child in writing thank-you notes. The more ownership your child feels and the more fun you make this, the more likely you will be successful at teaching manners.

For the guest list, there’s no magic number for how many children to invite. You have many choices depending on your child’s age and the size of his or her “social circle.” When choosing who to invite, ask yourself how many children you are comfortable hosting.

Many families follow the “age plus one” rule. For example, a party for a five-year-old could have six attendees.

Once a child is school-age, it’s important to know that you are not obligated to invite the entire classroom. If you only plan to invite a few children from the class, you might want to discuss the idea of discretion with your child so they don’t brag about the party in front of others.

As children get older, the birthday party size tends to decrease and become based on relationships. Consider inviting half the class or all of just one gender if that’s easier or more appropriate. If you’re just inviting your daughter’s three best friends, that’s fine, too. A manageable party will be more enjoyable for both you and your guests.

By the time children are eight- to 11-years-old, they can easily handle a two-hour party. This gives plenty of time for games, snacks, and cake.

When it is gift-opening time, there are lessons associated with opening the gift during the party. The benefit of opening gifts during the party is that it teaches your child about receiving graciously.

For the guests, watching a friend open a present they chose especially for him or her makes children feel good about pleasing someone without having to get anything in return. Most importantly, remember to relax and have fun.

Respectfully Yours, Jacquelyn

Have a question? Email: Jacquelyn Youst is owner of the Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol, specializing in etiquette training. She is on the board of directors of the National Civility Foundation. All Rights Reserved © 2018 Jacquelyn Youst