QUESTION: How do you explain to your child that they haven't been invited to a neighbor's birthday party? It is more challenging when they live next door, are the same age and attend the same school. The girls also have the same friends. How should I have handled this scene with my child?
CALLIE'S ANSWER: This is not my department but make fun plans for her to do instead! This way she will have something fun already lined up when you tell her.
LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: Party politics affect us all at any age. It's not easy to be left out, especially when you see the party going on next door. However, you can't force your child to be included. Parents sometimes are limited by space of the party's location, their budget or their ability to handle more than a certain number of children, all things you can tell your child. Other times, parents include people because it's the right thing to do, which seems like it would have been in this case, since your child is next door. It's hard to imagine what that parent was thinking.
While you can't change the party's invite list or shield your child from disappointment, you can tell your child that you're sorry and offer an extra hug or a fun activity away from the house. Later, if you're close to the neighbors and if it's really bothering you, you can ask them politely — out of range of any children's ears — whether there's a problem between the two kids. She might be surprised to hear that your child's invitation wasn't received, or she might surprise you by telling you of some unknown friction between the two that you can work on mending.
We all have to learn gracefully how to handle hurt feelings from being left out, and this is a chance for your child to learn that life goes on and that she's going to be OK. Encourage your child to smile and say “happy birthday” at school and leave it at that.
HELEN'S ANSWER: How painful! There are times that a guest list must be limited. That happens in adult life also. But it is hurtful as a child to watch birthday parties or end-of-school events next door when she is not on the list. This might be the time to spend time doing something beneficial for someone else or finding an activity away from the house during the time of the party. Are there other mothers you can discuss this with? Maybe someone else was left out, too.
GUEST'S ANSWER: Devonne Carter, licensed clinical social worker and etiquette class teacher at Oklahoma Christian University: In this situation, modeling a positive attitude for your child will help the most. If you are upset and have a negative attitude, your child will learn from you. If you show your child that you can be positive, even in times when your feelings are hurt, you will be setting a good example for her.
Situations are going to happen that hurts our feelings. We are going to be left out at times we think we should be included. This is an opportunity to teach your daughter how to manage her feelings when she isn't included.
If you shelter your child and never let them experience anything negative, they are not going to be prepared for life when you are not with them. With that in mind, I wouldn't try to hide the situation (like taking your daughter to McDonald's during the party). I would use this opportunity to explain that sometimes we are not able to do everything with everyone and that was your neighbor's choice.
If your daughter acted hurt about not being invited, I would have asked her how she felt. I would have validated her feelings, by saying something like, “Wow. I can see how that would make you sad,” while keeping your chin up about the situation.
Callie Gordon, a college junior, is 20-something; Lillie-Beth Brinkman, assistant features editor is in her 40s; and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. At times, you'll also find a guest answer. Callie and Lillie-Beth were both debutantes; Helen has served on local ball committees.
To ask an etiquette question, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more 20-40-60 etiquette, go to blog.newsok.com/partiesextra.