As parents, more than anything else, we want our kids to be happy. When something happens that causes them to be sad or disappointed, I think we suffer even more than they do. Our first impulse is to try to find a way to fix the situation and make them feel better. This is not always the best response.
Disappointment is a part of life that we all experience. It's important that we allow children to begin to develop the understanding and healthy emotional skills that will support them throughout a lifetime.
Most of our disappointment or feelings of failure come from an expectation of something we wanted to happen that didn't happen. It's no different for adults than it is for children. We didn't get the job, we didn't get invited to the birthday party, we didn't get the toy we wanted (could be a new car or a tricycle) it's really all the same thing.
Support and encouragement is the best approach. It's okay for kids to feel disappointed but you don't have to be disappointed with them – it just adds more of a burden. Learning to handle small failures or disappointments paves the way for confidence in solving bigger challenges.
Children with no experience solving life's disappointments have a much harder time as adults when faced with a difficult situation. A big part of our job as parents is to guide our children to become self-sustaining adults. This includes allowing them to develop the emotional skills that will help them navigate the good times and the bumpy times we all encounter along the way.
What can you do to help your children through these growing pains?
- Allow your children to feel disappointment and talk about why they are feeling bad and what they could do to feel better;
- Present a healthy outlook on disappointment, it's a part of growing up;
- Help your children find ways to overcome the causes of their disappointment. What part of it do they have control over?
- Make sure they know you love them regardless of whether they got an A on their math test or you have to say no to something they want.
I still remember, with a little ache in my heart, the summer my son went to practices every day so he could try out for his school's swim team. He didn't get picked. It was a huge disappointment. It's been fifteen years since that happened and I think I'm finally I working through it. He on the other hand, got over it in a couple of days and joined another local swim team. Sometimes our children teach us great lessons.