Helping your child deal with disappointments
Kids are going to face multiple disappointments throughout their lives. We can either keep our fingers crossed that they should not face any BIG disappointments or back-breaking setbacks. Or we can do something better. We can help our kids learn how to deal with setbacks and disappointments.
We can begin by tackling minor letdowns like
- Losing a game at school,
- Not getting selected for a dance at the annual day,
- Not being invited to a friend’s birthday party
- Finding our favorite toy broken
- Having our tiffin dropped during a food break
…to major life events like
- Not being accepted in the college of their choice.
- Break-up with their best friend
- Losing someone to death
- Getting unfair treatment from others
Whatever may be the case, we need to teach them this: chin up, hopes up, big grin, belts tight, a high five as they begin the day, and the ability to be happy.
I know it’s painful to watch our kids hurt and suffer. Yet, it is a part of growing up! On the contrary, some doses of disappointments are necessary and can be good for the kids. It simulates the fact that things don’t always go our way in life. As Bill Gates famously said, “Expect Life to be UNFAIR”. Once our kids learn how to gracefully handle disappointments and bounce back, we have nothing to fear.
Here are a few tips to help your kids teach how to deal with disappointment. These tips would work for all kids aged 5 to 13. So here you go
Tip 1. Remember your role
We are not supposed to fix their problems or dish out solutions just because it is hard to see our kids hurting. Be there for them. Hold them, and lead them on the path. Ask the right questions to help them sift through their emotions but don’t become the Miss or Mr. Fix-It for them. If you become the ‘fixer’, they will start depending on you. In the long run, that won’t help.
For example: My nephew is hurt that his elder brother went out to play without asking him to join. He is home alone, angry. Now, I can call my older nephew and tell him off for doing this. But I don’t do that. I let my younger nephew cry just a wee bit. Gave him a hug (forced one upon him because he hates physical affection. Joking), and then asked him, “Will it be a good idea to talk to your older brother about it?”
I also asked him, “Does it help to be invited to play or is it less complicated to NOT WAIT for anyone to invite him?”
I asked him what would be the best way ahead in such situations? I gently suggested to discuss these with his brother and then go and play anyway. They are just 10 and 13 years old.
Tip 2. Empathize with your kids: Understand their disappointments and the source of their hurt. Empathize with them.
Tell them “I know how you feel. I have been there. I am so sorry.” Hug them, show more love. But don’t let them get into self-pity mode or start glorifying the defeat.
Tip 3. Don’t solve their problems for them: Listen and empathize. Give them clues if you wish. Help them understand their emotions. But don’t solve their problems for them. No “I will talk to your friend’s mother” or “I will ask your teacher why she told you that.” They need to learn to deal with things on their own, knowing that you have their back.
Tip. 4 Help them get to the crux of the problem: Hear them out, find the missing pieces of the story and help them get to the crux of what is causing them hurt. This process will help them build the beautiful habit of understanding their emotions better, on their own.
Tip 5: Teach them a self-calming technique: When they are crying their eyes out or raging with emotions, they need to calm down to think straight. This habit has to set in at a young age so that they are emotionally composed and calm adults later on in life. Teach them a self-calming technique like praying, going for a run, dancing to music, listening to their favorite soothing song, reading, making some art, singing or watching a video. Teach them to get their mind off the problem until they calm down. This will be a true gift to your child.
Now that we have looked at the generic tips, let’s look at how to manage these situations with teens and tweens. The tricky age that they are in, the tips that you need to help them deal with disappointments is different. It is as good as dealing with semi-adults. So here you go:
Step 1: Be a listener: Kids need to know that they will be heard. We need to stop interrupting their sentences even though we know what they are saying. We need to well and truly listen. The priority has to be to hear our kids out about their frustrations, fears, and feelings. Identify with your teen; feel what they feel. They are champions. They can solve their issues. They need to be heard to clear their head!
Step 2: Ask a lot of questions: When you do talk, ask questions, ask questions and…ask questions. Ask questions to understand things deeper. That will help them sift through their emotions and understand where things went wrong. That way, they will develop a method to deal with disappointments.
Here are some questions to ask them…
- Why do you think you are so disappointed? Get over the surface answer and help them get to the crux of their pain. Follow up their answers with a few ‘what else is the cause of your disappointment?’. You will be surprised by what unfolds.
- Were your expectations realistic? They will learn that setting realistic goals and expectations is the crux of happy relationships and a lot of other things. Use simple examples like “I can’t expect my friend to call me every day although I miss her tons. Her children have exams and that must be her priority. We manage our expectations.”
- Is there anything WE can learn from this? There is a lesson in every disappointment. “When I got yelled at at office for making a simple mistake in calculations, I feel insulted and bad. But after I calmed myself down, I realized that I had made a mistake. It was my fault that I did not check the presentation before submitting it. There was indeed scope to learn from the mistake. I always double check my data now. I also realized that I was hurt because I felt insulted when talked rudely to. I admitted my mistake to my boss and discussed my hurt with my boss nicely and openly. He admitted he might have been harsher than required. We now have a good working relationship. “ Did I do the right thing?” I asked. The kids nodded at my sharings and they could see the relevance and insights for them through my experience. They LEARNT.
- What are you trusting in to make you happy? This question helps your teen think about where their source of happiness and satisfaction is. Is their hope in something strong and reliable, such as love or faith? Or, is their hope in something fleeting and foolish, such as popularity or attention?
Step 3. Ask if you can give them some ideas: Don’t rain down on them with advice and solutions. Ask if they need your ideas and inputs. It is important to just be there for kids and not threaten their semblance of intelligence.
Step 4. Help them look at things from a different perspective: Discuss scenarios, stories and help them see their disappointments from different perspectives. You can also help them see the difference between an injustice and a consequence.
Step 5. Remember to give your child a lot of affirmation: Finally, if disappointments happen between you and your children, this is what you say to them.
- You love them and are standing with them, no matter what.
- Tell them that you value them, no matter what.
- Tell them that you care about values and them making good moral choices.
- Tell them that you will always be there for them.
- They may act like they don’t care but they need this from you. Always.
What do you think about these tips? All set to help your kids handle disappointments? I say, take this learning forward and tell you, fellow parents, to apply these as well. And write to us about how things went. Wishing you loving, blissful and wow parenting!