Breaking through: 3 practical ways to help your child cope with disappointment
Lately, we have been walking through some big moments in our home. Our fellas have been taking bold steps outside of their comfort zones.
But with each step to try something new sometimes comes with the disappointment of things not going quite the way they planned.
Seeing the disappointment on their faces, everything in me wanted to fix their hurt. As much as I want to save them from their disappointment, protecting them from their pain would only hinder their growth into strong, Godly men.
Because I know what it’s like to deal with disappointment. It hurts. It’s uncomfortable. Sometimes, it’s just HARD.
But I also know on the other side of disappointment can be victory, success, and strength. As parents, one of our responsibilities is equipping our fellas with the necessary skills to cope when disappointment happens and then teaching them how to navigate through these moments in a healthy way.
Now I am still walking through the teaching phases with our fellas, so these skills are ones we are working through on a daily basis.
Acknowledge their emotion
Experiencing disappointment is real for everyone at all ages and all stages of life. We don’t outgrow it. We can’t avoid it. When our children are letdown, first begin by acknowledging their perception of what happened. Teaching children to recognize their emotions and respond in healthy ways encourages them to be resilient.
The disappointment our children face in the moment is real to them. As parents, let’s listen to what they have to say without interruption, without ridicule, and without judgment. Our children don’t need us to validate their emotions; they need us to acknowledge they exist.
Remember, our children learn how to navigate disappointment by what we teach AND what we model. So, don’t be afraid to relate. Share how you have walked through disappointment in your own life in friendships, in relationships, or plans being changed. Share what strategies work for you. Our children need to know they are not alone in their emotions.
Teach self-regulating techniques
When disappointments happen, it’s important our children have techniques to help them to process their emotions in a healthy way.
- Presence: Sometimes our children don’t need words, they need presence. Offering a hug or even sitting beside your child shoulder to shoulder on the floor communicates you care and his/her feelings matter. Just being there speaks louder than any words.
- Exercise: Go for a walk with your kid. Play a game. Do something that encourages your child to see beyond their frustration and even have some fun.
- Talk in a safe space: All children need to be to talk freely about their emotions and experiences. They need to be heard. As much as you want to fix things, listen.
- Listen to music: Help your child identify types of music or particular songs that make them feel calm and peaceful. Playing upbeat songs or praise and worship music can have a positive impact on their emotional state.
- Draw: Drawing or any artwork will allow the child to process what he/she cannot put into words.
- Create: Whether it is cooking, working with clay, or building fort, spending time creating can help your child release pent-up energy and frustrations from their disappointment.
- Prayer: Take time to pray over your child out loud. Lead your child in prayer for guidance and peace. Teach your child how to pray when faced with disappointment. In doing this while our children are young, we help model how to pray when they are older.
- Scripture: Teaching our children scripture ahead of time will comfort them when they go through difficult times. Create scripture cards together your child can go to when he/she is dealing with different emotions. These cards will keep them rooted in the word when their world starts to spin.
See the good
Once we help our children acknowledge their disappointment and teach them self-regulating techniques, then the next practical step is helping them see the good. In every disappointment, there is some good. As parents, we can help them stretch their perspective. Sure, your kid didn’t make the basketball team, but he did step out of his comfort zone to try out. Okay, your daughter didn’t get a part in the school play, but she did face her fear of public speaking. The good is in stepping out, facing fears, and being willing to do something bold or different.
Ask your child,
- What did you learn from this experience
- How can you improve for next time?
- How were you strong, bold, or brave?
When these disappointments happen, we can teach our children “nevertheless” statements. These statements acknowledge the disappointment while also equipping them to see the good.
- I am disappointed I didn’t make the team; nevertheless I know I did my best.
- I am disappointed I wasn’t invited to the party; nevertheless, I know I am loved.
- I am disappointed I didn’t make an A on my test; nevertheless I know I worked hard.
By refraining their thought process, we teach our children how to exercise self-control over their emotions.
Our children don’t need us to protect them from disappointment; rather they need to be pointed to the protector of their hearts Jesus Christ. By equipping our children with the skills to cope with disappointment, we are providing them with the resources to walk through life’s challenges with resilience.
How do you help your kid deal with disappointment? Share your comments below.
Cheering you on,