Sunday, June 17, 2012

It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to

How to keep the tears and tantrums at bay on your child’s birthday
Remember the parties you hosted for your first born child?
Until they reached a certain age, they always involved tears, and for some reason this always surprised me.
I would always ask myself: why is she crying? It’s her birthday... she’s getting all the attention, presents and junk food she wants!
There were tears because someone got the balloon she wanted, because someone else won pass the parcel, because someone else blew out the candles when they weren’t supposed to or just because it was all too much. Attention overload.
Tears and tantrums went hand in hand with fairy bread, balloons and too much sugar.
I’m not the type of parent who serves vegetable crudites and beetroot dip at children’s parties.
I am all for letting kids have a day off from the healthy stuff for a feast of lollies, cupcakes and sausage rolls.
I fully expect them to be on a sugar high all day and I don’t care... it’s their day, and I’ll handle the aftermath.
But for some reason when I was hosting parties for my first born child I never expected the tears that come with birthdays.
Now I’m older and wiser – all that means is that I’ve had another kid and know what comes next.
So for my little one’s second birthday I planned a total non-event.
I’m living in the bush now, so I don’t have the choice of amusement centre, water park, jumping castle hire or Muddies Playground.
It was a simple morning tea for family only.
No lollies, party bags, games or music. Sounds boring doesn’t it?
Well, it was lovely, and there were no tears... well, almost no tears.
Everything was going along beautifully as we had unwrapped presents, threw around a few balloons and ate yummy homemade pastries (thank you Grandma).
Then it was time for the cake so we lit two tiny pink candles, but this completely freaked her out and brought on the tears. 
Although I have given her the nickname of Miss Firecracker (she likes to go off in public places), she is definitely not a pyromaniac.
As soon as Miss Six blew them out, the tears were gone.
Back to playing with her new toys and eating cake. Yay!
It was the most stress-free party I’ve ever hosted, and maybe that’s due to the fact that it involved only one toddler!
So readers, if you’re planning a party for a child under the age of four, be prepared for tears and tantrums from just about every kid there. 
While the kids play like maniacs and the parents mill around hoping someone else will organise the fun for an hour or two, there will always be meltdowns that can turn even the most well planned party into a disaster.

The fact is that most children have difficulty handling the extra excitement and attention.
While we all try and plan for them to have plenty of rest before and after the party to keep them calm, the fact is that the combination of colourful decorations, delightful food, lots of friends, new toys, noise and games to play makes their hyperactive radar go nuts.
Some parents may find that giving their child some “time out” during the party such as a break in the kitchen with a parent preparing some food, or a walk in the garden, might help them control their behaviour.
At most parties I have been to, there is always one child who ends up playing alone in a bedroom as the excitement of the party is too much.
It’s a good idea to have some extra toys handy to amuse young ones or siblings who may attend.
If your child cries or has a tantrum during the party, it’s best to take them to another room to give them a break from the noise and activity.
Perhaps give them a job to do to ease them back into participating such as handing out party hats.
This will distract them from the original problem and makes them feel more in control.
Some children will shut down if there’s too much excitement and doze off during the party. A short nap is harmless, so don’t fret if the birthday boy or girl decides to snooze during the middle of the festivities.
There will also be children who prefer to sit back with a parent and watch instead of participating, but they still enjoy themselves.
Too many guests may put the party at risk of deteriorating into an unmanageable gathering with a lot of crying, so be sure to keep the guest list short, particularly for ages one to three.
And one last tip: plan for the unexpected.
If the birthday party guests like playing with the gift wrap instead of the toys, or like the props of a game better than the game itself, then go with the flow.
If they don’t eat the food, they won’t starve. 
If they want to go home, then hand them a party bag and bid them a fond farewell.
If the children fight, there are plenty of distractions at a party to get them to be friends again.
So relax, take lots of photos and keep in mind that one day they’ll grow out of crying at their own birthday party.


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