Help Your Child Handle Dissapointment Well
I get excited when I see social media posts in the United States about people gathering, friends hugging, and going to the grocery store without wearing masks. My social media feeds are finally filling up with concerts, parties, and vacations. July 4th looked considerably different in 2021 versus 2020. 2020 was rough and consisted of lockdowns, endless bad news about COVID-19, limited celebrations, and few get-togethers. Thankfully 2021 featured an abundance of BBQs, parades, get-togethers, and exploding fireworks that matched the excitement in everyone’s hearts as they finally get back to normal.
While this is a reality for a lot of the world, it is not for many expatriates overseas. Where I live specifically, the COVID-19 numbers have been higher than they’ve ever been the past five days, and new restrictions, including a lockdown, have been mandated. It feels like a repeat of 2020 but with far worse statistics.
I had to explain to my daughters that for the next few weeks, and likely the remainder of their summer, they would be inside. No more pool, no more water parks, no more malls, no more restaurants- there were all closed. On top of that, we don’t know what school will look like in the fall, but we know it won’t be back to normal.
Oof. Talk about a heavy heart and major disappointment. While most of the world is taking steps forward, we are moving backward here in southeast Asia.
Life is full of disappointments, and those disappointments come in all shapes and sizes. It could be something as simple as not getting what they expected for their birthday or not being in the same class as one of their best friends. Or, in this case, likely not returning to in-person school and embarking on yet another year of virtual school. Learning how to navigate simple disappointments at a young age will help children build resiliency tools to handle the bigger disappointments in life.
So how do we teach children to handle disappointment well?
Start with these simple tips.
Listen and Empathize
When you listen to understand, you are letting your child that you care. And it’s ok, to be honest with how you’re feeling too! This will let your child know that they are not alone in how they are feeling.
It’s tempting to sugarcoat the situation to minimize the sadness. However, that could lead to more disappointment. Instead, be your child’s mentor. Tell them what to expect next and then help guide them through whatever the situation may be.
Learn Self Calming Skills
When a child gets disappointed, they often get sad or angry. Learning breathing exercises and grounding techniques are great ways to center, calm down, and refocus. These are helpful for adults as well!
Remind Them of What They Can Control
Kids tend to feel out of control when they are disappointed, so it’s good to remind them that they won’t feel this way forever and that there are some things they can control. Attitude and mindsets are great places to start. Some other examples include:
- They can’t see their friends in person, but they can still be social by connecting over facetime or zoom.
- They can’t meet with their piano teacher, but they can still practice the piano.
- Their favorite flavor of ice cream is out, but they can choose another flavor.
There are many benefits to showing gratitude. Studies show that expressing gratitude positively affects your health, mindset, and relationships. Working with your child to make a list of things you’re both thankful for is an excellent way to practice gratitude.
Remember, big or small, experiencing disappointment at times in life is inevitable. If children learn how to navigate the smaller letdowns, it will help them manage the big ones. So, the next time playdates are canceled, they don’t make the team, or their recipe didn’t turn out as they expected. Remind your child of everything they’ve already overcome and help them through the disappointment they’re facing right now. Doing so will strengthen their mental and emotional health and prepare them for whatever life throws their way - it may even help you too!