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7 Tips for Birthday Party Planning Stress

Liz Alton
June 16, 2017

Learn about common birthday party problems for parents -- and how to avoid them.

There's nothing more rewarding than seeing your son's face light up with all of the fun and activities for his special day. But for parents, the realities of party planning can be incredibly stressful. From choosing a location to inviting guests to simply planning for the realities of keeping twenty children entertained for an afternoon, it's easy to get overwhelmed.

Here are seven common reasons people get stressed about birthday party planning, with helpful solutions for each.

And for more helpful tips, check out Care.com's Guide to Managing Stress.

Stress #1: Child's Expectations
"The biggest source of party stress for parents is about meeting and exceeding their child's expectations," says Lee Knowlton, children's party planner and CEO of Fun Brands. Kids can have some pretty exciting ideas about what they want -- and meeting all of those expectations can be a big source of anxiety.

Solution: "It all comes down to asking yourself: 'will this make my child happy?' I tell parents to take a deep breath, and think about what your child loves to do."

If your child is old enough to participate, engage them in the process and discuss what kind of party they would like to have.

Stress #2: Planning All the Details
Determining how to pull everything together can cause a lot of anxiety. Many parents are stuck wondering what to do about a cake, decorations and entertainment.

Solution: Knowlton recommends choosing a theme. "Once you address a theme, the decorations and activities will fall into place. For instance, if it's a pirate party, you may want to have a scavenger hunt to search for treasure, or, if your child prefers a princess theme, look for tiaras and wands for the guests."

Stress #3: Getting Everything Done
When you're actually pulling everything together for the party, it can seem overwhelming.

Solution: Pamela Donovan, a mom of two teenaged boys from Boston, recommends hiring extra help. "One of the biggest stress relievers is having extra pairs of hands, for everything from watching the kids to managing clean up." Bringing in a babysitter to mind younger children or plan activities, or a housekeeper to help you with post-event clean up can make the concept of event management easier to consider.

Stress #4: Preparing Your Home
One of the biggest challenges is getting your home into top shape, only to have kids tear it apart again. Cleaning, organizing and making sure your yard is ready can represent hours of work.

Solution: Have the party somewhere else, suggests Donovan. "It might be a bit more expensive, but at the end of the event you're done. If you choose the right venue, they even have staff responsible to handling the clean up part."

Knowlton agrees, but notes that venue selection is extremely important. "When selecting a venue to host your child's party you should ask a couple questions: is there active play involved, will there be food and snacks, is there a trained staff to encourage and engage in activities and --  most importantly -- will every guest have a good time?"

Stress #5: A Giant Guest List
Your daughter would invite the entire school to her birthday party if she had her way. But parents need to set boundaries.

Solution: Invite a smaller number of children or families. Or have two smaller parties: one for family and one for friends. While you don't want to exclude anyone, it's easier and more affordable to create a great experience for twenty people than forty. Know your own limits, but don't be afraid to focus on quality over quantity with respect to your guest list.

Stress #6: Outdoing Other Parents
There are three other birthday parties coming up this month (all with Frozen themes!). And you want your child's to be the best. It's time to take a step back.

Solution: Yes, you want your child to have a great birthday. Are you planning the event for the enjoyment of your child and guests -- or are worried about impressing other parents? Refocusing your priorities to a simple and enjoyable day, and worrying less about what other parents think, can immediately reduce stress.

Stress #7: Keeping Track of Information
From sending out invites to planning menus, there are lots of small details to remember.

Solution: Rely on technology, suggests Donovan. "Use an online invitation software -- whether it's a specific software or the events function on Facebook." People respond faster, and it's easier to do your planning in a shorter amount of time. Create a Google Doc for things like menu lists and favor ideas -- that way you can easily add to it on your phone whenever you have an idea.

Celebrating your child’s next birthday doesn't have to be a source of stress. Focus on your child, worry less about what other people think, get help when you need it, and simplify where you can. You, your child and your guests will have a day to remember!


Need some extra help organizing or setting up the party? Hire a babysitter or housekeeper to help out for a few hours.

Liz Alton is a freelance writer covering small business and technology topics. Her writing can be found in USA Today, The Huffington Post and many other publications.

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