Disappointment is a fact of life. Whether we are children or adults, we will deal with it every day. Just like children, some adults just seem to handle it better. While some of us are knocked flat on our backs by disappointments, others simply know that there are ways to cope. As parents, we should be striving to raise children who belong to the latter group.
We want our children to take the ups and the downs of life in stride so that they are happier and more well adjusted in the long run. The question is, how do we do that? How do we instill a quality like resiliency in our children?
Stop and Listen
Disappointment happens. When it does, most of us are capable of realizing that it is simply not the end of the world. To a young child, however, it might very well seem that way. When your child is suffering from disappointment it is imperative that you recognize the validity and importance of their feelings. If you fail to do so, you risk identifying yourself as someone who does not understand what is meaningful to your child.
Rather than convincing them that the sky is not falling as a result of their disappointment, you will most likely convince them that your viewpoint cannot be counted upon. If you choose to acknowledge and even share in your child’s feelings you have the opportunity to convince them that you know what they are going through.
Learn to Cope
The next step is to help your child cope. People who are successful at coping with disappointment are able to be that way because they know how to use the resources available to them to solve their problems. You need to begin demonstrating this for your child so that they can learn to do it themselves. Once your child is ready to move on from their disappointment, try offering them a choice about something.
Instead of suggesting to the child that you watch a movie, ask if they’d like to watch a movie or color. Exercising a little control over their universe can help your child to put things in perspective and take the sting out of their disappointment. It also allows you to begin teaching your child what they can and can’t control, which is a very valuable lesson in the long run. With your sympathy and support, you child will begin to learn how they can cope with disappointment.
As you repeat these lessons over time, make sure that your child has other people that they can turn to during times of disappointment. There may be times when your child does not or will not want to share a problem like this with you. Having someone else they can go to is important; moreover, it is an important part of navigating such situations in a mature manner. Adults who have learned that the universe is not ending are also the ones who know who can help them through troubled times.
It's also important to recognize when your child's inability to deal with disappointment or let something go is indicative of a deeper problem. Sometimes, your child just needs more time to emotionally mature. In other cases, though, a lack of ability to cope with life's challenges may mean something more is going on.
For example, if your child is depressed, any negative thing that happens to them may feel truly insurmountable. Where a healthy person could brush it off and move on, your child will be overly critical of themselves and will cling to disappointment. This is just one example of how an unhealthy level of disappointment can indicate a bigger mental health issue.
If you suspect your child is dealing with something bigger, it's important to get them help. There's nothing to be ashamed of. Many children need to speak with a counselor, for a variety of reasons. Many adults do, too. By getting your child help sooner rather than later, you'll set them up for success and help them achieve the growth they need.