4 ways to help your child with disappointment
Updated: Feb 25
Is our role as a parent to shield and protect our kids from disappointment and sadness? The answer is that even if we wanted to, it would be impossible. Parents have the illusion that we can, especially when children are younger and it seems easier. If a child loses a raffle in school, we can promise them something when they get home. If a child doesn’t score a goal in a game of soccer, we offer them hot chocolate. Shielding them from disappointment seems possible when they are younger. However, as they get older it is not always possible. Social rejection, school acceptances, unemployment, even finding a good spouse are bigger issues that parents do not have the ability to always fix.
It is important to accept that disappointment is a fact of life. We all go through it at some point, shielding a child from it when they are younger does not avoid rejection in the future. Take opportunities when they are younger to teach them skills to handle it.
4 steps to teach children how to handle disappointment:
Allow your children to sit with disappointment. Do not try and fix it, rather stay with them through it. Sit with your child while they work through their feelings
Do not diminish their sadness by saying, “it's not such a big deal” “get over it,” “there are worse things in life.” Instead, say something like “ I understand how hard this is.”
Help your child find a skill that they can use to calm down. It’s trial and error until you find what fits. Whether it is as simple as breathing relaxations, playing an instrument, reading, drawing, running. Together, find an outlet your child can turn to for comfort as life gets harder.
Make sure your child knows they are not alone. Feeling rejected and disappointed makes people feel alone, unwanted and discouraged. However, comfort and strength comes when one knows they are loved. Do not assume your child knows this simply because you feel it. Tell them you are there with them through thick and thin. It is much easier to deal with disappointment when you have someone by your side then when you feel alone. It is not necessary to fix the problem, it is necessary to be present.
At every stage of life there are different types of disappointments. Each situation is a new opportunity to hone in and get better at handling it. The more we prepare a child when they are younger to deal with disappointment, the better they will be able to handle it in the real world where it can be greater and many times more poignant. A parent’s role is not necessarily to shield their children from disappointment but to give them the love and skills to tackle it when it comes.