Family: 'It's My Party...'

Birthday parties are a blast for some kids, but torture for others. "They can be pretty overwhelming," says Marti Olsen Laney, author of "The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child," out next month. Her advice on helping shy kids ages 3 to 9 survive their next bash:

Plan ahead. Find out how many kids are coming, what activities they'll have and how long the party will last. Then ask how your child feels about going. If the party sounds too long, say you'll pick him up early. And be sure to let him know he doesn't have to attend every event.

Don't push. At the party, stay with your child to help her ease in, but don't push her to interact before she's ready.

Limit the head count. Invite the same number of kids as your child's age (no more than five friends for a 5-year-old). If your school encourages classwide parties, keep things short and simple. "They'll have a good time playing together and that's good enough," says Olsen Laney. Save the elaborate bash for when they're old enough to pay.