We had the same experience every year when my son was that age. We’d hand out party invites to the entire class and we were lucky if one kid showed up. My son had a friend that didn’t go to his school that also had his own challenges and we made sure to always invite him and to plan the party on a date he could come, so there was at least one friend there. It was always insanely heartbreaking. Especially when we’d go to other classmates’ parties the same school year and 10+ kids were there.
I learned to approach birthdays completely different. We started allowing him to personally invite 1-2 friends he spent time with outside school to do something special, like an afternoon at the arcade or a trip to a water park — something we wouldn’t do with a large group anyway. That made it more special, and we didn’t have to worry about the heartbreak of no one showing up. Then, we’d do something as a family to celebrate on his actual birthday, and also have a family gathering with extended family in the area to celebrate. So, he ends up getting to celebrate more anyway.
This last b-day (14), he invited two friends over to play video games (that’s what drew them to becoming friends) and spend the night. We got them pizza and ice cream and let them play as much as they wanted. Then my son picked what he wanted to eat for dinner on his actual birthday and we had that and cake at home — because he asked to stay home where he’s more comfortable. Ultimately, you simply need to format birthdays differently, so random classmates showing up or not can’t be an issue. 😉
Here’s some expert advice on helping kids make friends too:
ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism