Disappointment is part of life. As adults, we can all agree that we’re all going to feel disappointment, regret, sadness that things didn’t go according to plan, that we made a choice that sent us down a path that wasn’t really what we wanted. How do we help our kiddos be resilient, deal with disappointment, and deal with changes? Some kids seem to be born to go with the flow, and others can’t handle the slightest shift in expectations or routine. Since the collective trauma of the pandemic, we’ve noticed that kids’ abilities to cope with change seem to be at the ends of the spectrum. Some kids experienced the pandemic as a loss of trust. They lose the feeling that everything will be about the same day-to-day. They gained the sense that everything can change all at once, and they have no control. So, how can we help kiddos overcome the sadness of disappointing experiences? This is for everyday life stuff, not Big T trauma stuff.
TEN WAYS TO HELP
- Listen and validate, “What a bummer?! You wanted to go out for ice cream, but the shop is closed.”
- Offer an alternative, but don’t bend yourself into knots trying to make it better. Maybe we could go to the grocery store and get treats to take home. We’ll be able to get twice as many treats!” or, “Why don’t we try again tomorrow?”
- Be as light-hearted as possible, “Welp, guess we’ll have to wait until tomorrow for our brain freezes.” Oh man, your craft fell on the floor! Earthquake! Let’s see if we can fix it; we can always make it into something else.”
- Do they just need a snack? My grandma always offered us a piece of cheese and some crackers before we talked about any big feelings.
- “Ugh. It’s totally no fun that we couldn’t do our outing today. Do you have any ideas for things we could do instead?”
- Talk about agency. “We get to decide how we feel about this. Should we be so sad that it ruins our whole day, or maybe, we feel a little bummed and move on?” I have an endless joke about hiding under a table when my craft goes wrong, and the kids always laugh and chime in with, just ask for help, try something else, be nice to yourself! They know how to deal with hard feelings; they just need to be reminded that they know.
- Connect. Tell your kiddo a story about you being disappointed as a kid. Make it long and boring, and maybe even a time when you didn’t handle it well. They’ll be distracted; they might think, I know better than this grown-up, and I can handle this. Let them know that we all feel bummed sometimes and can find ways to deal with hard things.
- Try some perspective. Not like, eat your food because kids are starving, but like, remember when you handled that other hard thing? Yeah, you got it.
- Be your kid’s hype man. “If I know anything about you, I know that you can handle tough stuff, talk about it, and find a way of thinking about this so you don’t feel too bad for too long.”
- Breathe it through, “Let’s just take some deep breaths, and we’ll figure this out together.”