Everyone experiences disappointment from time to time; it is a part of life. However, it can be hard for parents to watch their children suffer disappointment, especially when it would be easy to step in and make it better.
We want our children to be happy, but more importantly, we want them to be able to choose to be happy. When we shelter children from disappointment, we are not allowing them to find ways to work through their own feelings.
We are setting our children up for a hard life if we do not provide them with the skills to handle setbacks.
What can a parent to do help a child handle disappointment?
Start by letting him know that you understand what he is feeling. Give him the words to express his disappointment. "You really wanted to play with your friend today. You’re sad that he isn’t feeling well and can’t come over."
Make sure she knows that it is OK to be upset, but help her handle angry feelings appropriately. She can hit a pillow or run in the yard to blow off steam, but she cannot hit people or throw toys. Some children need a period of alone time to feel better, while others benefit more from talking it through.
Don’t minimize the way your child feels, but at the same time try not to overemphasize the problem. Take time to deal with the situation, but then provide a distraction and move on. An entire day spent whining or sulking does not help your child learn to bounce back from disappointment.
Encourage your child to work out an alternative. If plans had to change, ask what he could do instead. If he saw a toy at the store that he really wants but cannot have at this time, which of his own toys would he like to play with today?
Talk about expectations. Older children may experience disappointment in regards to school work or participation in sports or other activities. Help your child set goals that are challenging yet achievable.
Remember that your children are always watching you. When faced with your own disappointments, the way you respond can help teach your children a productive way to cope.
Experiencing disappointment gives children the opportunity to problem solve and to find the good in an unfortunate situation.
When children have this skill, they are much better equipped to handle life’s ups and downs.
Shawna Munro works at the Elspeth Reid Family Resource Centre, a facility of Child and Family Services of Western Manitoba that offers parenting information and support.
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