Disappointment is encountered at every stage of life and everyone feels at least a little emotional pain when faced with a disappointment.
Some people, however, react very strongly to disappointments, taking them personally and feeling much more hurt than the situation merits.
Learning to cope effectively with disappointment begins in childhood.
If you learn as a child how to acknowledge your feelings about a disappointment, put them into perspective, and move on as quickly as possible, you’ll have learned a skill that will be valuable for the rest of your life.
So, how can you as a parent help your child deal with disappointment?
Acknowledge Your Child’s Feelings
Listen to your child and acknowledge their feelings of disappointment as soon as a disappointing event has taken place.
Tell your child that you understand how disappointed he or she feels about the event.
Encourage your child to talk about their feelings.
Show Empathy and Love
Tell your child that you understand why they are feeling upset about what happened.
Give your child a hug and tell them that you love them.
Don’t minimize your child’s feelings of disappointment by saying it doesn’t matter anyway. At this point, it matters very much to your child.
Explain Reasons for the Disappointing Event
If possible, explain the reasons why the disappointing event happened.
So, if your child’s friend was due to visit but her mom canceled at the last minute because she was sick, explain the situation in clear and simple language that your child will understand.
Reassure Your Child
Make it very clear to your child that he or she wasn’t in any way to blame for the disappointment.
This is very important, because some children can mistakenly take disappointments very personally, blaming themselves for situations which had nothing to do with their actions.
Boost Your Child’s Self-Esteem
Do something to help raise your child’s self-esteem. This helps reinforce the fact that he is a valuable person and was not to blame for the disappointment.
Reading a book, playing a game, going for a walk or coloring together can help your child to feel better and put the disappointment behind him or her.
However, it’s not a good idea to buy your child a present or give them something to eat to help them move on from the disappointment. This could give your child the message that going shopping or eating are good ways of dealing with uncomfortable feelings. In later life, this might lead to an addiction to shopping or over-eating in an attempt to cope with difficult feelings.
Keep the Channels of Communication Open
If your child carries on talking about the disappointment, continue to acknowledge their feelings, reassure them that it wasn’t their fault, and find another activity you can enjoy together.
Be careful not to lose your patience or say you don’t want to hear any more about the situation.
Some children take longer than others to come to terms with disappointment and move on. If you interrupt the process before it’s come to an end, your child may feel that he or she is to blame for the disappointment after all.
On the other hand, if your child doesn’t want to talk much about what happened, don’t force the issue. If you’ve handled the situation sensitively, your child will know that you’re there if they need to talk about their feelings.
- Listen to your child with understanding.
- Acknowledge your child’s feelings of disappointment.
- Clearly explain the circumstances of the disappointment.
- Reassure your child that he or she wasn’t to blame.
- Help your child put the disappointment into perspective by doing an enjoyable activity together.
- Continue to allow your child to talk about his or her feelings until he or she feels ready to move on.
If you consistently follow these steps when your child faces disappointment, they will have a healthy way of dealing with disappointments in adulthood. They will still feel the emotional pain of disappointment but will be able to deal with the hurt in a mature way.