Q: "My son doesn't get invited to birthday parties or asked on play dates with his peers. Should I be concerned?"
A: There is no reason for concern. Many times, due to time, financial, or space constraints, every child in the class may not be invited for every birthday celebration. As children get older, they also may express preferences to celebrate with a smaller group of friends that they share similar interests with on a daily basis.
If your child appears upset, talk with your child, and explain that the friend may have been limited on the number of people they were able to invite to this particular party, and that there will be other opportunities to spend time with the friend at a later date. Also explain to your child that there will be many opportunities to be invited to events and celebrations in the future by other friends or family members. You can brainstorm together about other fun events coming up on a later date that your child will attend (the idea is to give the child something positive to look forward to). You and your child can also think of a time to invite one friend—or a few friends— for a playdate or special outing. This will give your child additional opportunities to build fun, positive social relationships with peers. (There is a great Psychology Today online post by Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D., Growing Friendships: Children’s Play Date Guidelines, that offers helpful tips for planning successful playdates.)
If there is concern about a deeper question—the level and quality of social interaction your child has with peers—start by talking with your child’s teacher. Find out whether the teacher shares similar concerns about your child’s peer interaction behaviors in the school setting (remember, they see lots of kids interacting with one another consistently on a daily basis). If, after talking with the teacher, you both see a pattern of concern, it may be helpful to consult with a psychologist or therapist for further exploration of additional questions.