The big birthday party is so last year

Apr 27, 2012 at 4:00 p.m. ET

In a child's mind, the yearly birthday party is practically mythic. It's the one day a year all about her: It's so much fun, all her friends are there and everyone has the best time ever. But how often has that big birthday party really met expectations? Thought so.

For all the good intention and planning, birthday parties can be more trouble than fun. From the stress of planning to the cost to the build up and managing expectations to social dynamics at the party itself to the overstimulated toy-filled aftermath, a big children's birthday party can be exhausting for all involved. So don't do it.

Fun… or stress?

Birthdays are meant to be fun and happy, but too often, they tend the other way. There's the issue of reciprocity (your child was invited to other parties, therefore has to invite those children), expectation (everyone is doing it), the latest local venue (nine paint-it-yourself pottery parties in the last month), scheduling (weekend soccer, anyone?) and peer pressure (child and adult). Then there are invitations, food and goody bags to consider. And, oh yeah, paying for it. Birthday parties can bust budgets before you even realize it.

Meanwhile, your child is building up this party in her mind to expectations well beyond reality. It's the perfect scenario for a whole family birthday party meltdown.

Disappointment -- and relief!

Instead of buying into the big, over-the-top party, say no, thank you. When you talk to your child about this decision, she may be disappointed at first. Don't give in to that disappointment -- even if your daughter gives you her best pouty face ever! Talk positively about what you can do instead of having a blowout. Most likely, both of you will feel some relief -- even if your child won't admit it to you or herself.

More for less

In lieu of another big party, you have an opportunity to create more meaningful birthday memories for and with your child. For the same -- or often less -- cost and stress of a big birthday blowout, you can plan an event or outing that will have more meaning and impact for your child. It can be a movie and sleepover with her closest friends, a professional musical production with her dearest cousin or a trip to the ballpark. It could even be a weekend trip to a favorite getaway with just the family.

Choosing not to have a big birthday party for your child can be a hard decision for both of you. In the end, creating a low key, more meaningful celebration of a child's birthday likely will reap rewards well past the actual day in strong family memories -- and lower blood pressure.

More on kids' birthdays

Anxiety is no (birthday) party
5 Kids' birthday party ideas that won't break the bank
Birthday party disasters averted