Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Dealing with Disappointments

Don’t Try to Make it All Better for Your Kids

It is not my job to make my children happy – although I sincerely hope that each and every day they can find happiness. As parents we sometimes get the mixed message that we are supposed to kiss the boo-boo and make it all better. The problem with this philosophy, however, is that when we take the role as fixer, we take away the opportunities for our kids to learn tools and skills for dealing with disappointment. The truth is that we need to teach our kids to find their own happiness – we can’t create that pretense for them.

There will be disappointments in life for our kids. As much as I wish they didn’t have to go through the pain, I know that it will be far better to prepare them with healthy ways to deal with disappointment than to always try to take away their pain. Some parents might find this harsh – instead wanting to turn every possibility of pain into smooth roads. While this might provide immediate relief, it does not provide long term solutions.

Author Elizabeth Crary, M.S., has written on various parenting topics, including Dealing with Disappointment, where she describes the importance for parents of equipping children with tools to deal with this inevitable piece of life. She includes chapters for parents where we can take self-assessments for how we react to our children as they face disappointing situations. In essence, these assessments measure our parenting styles.

Do you try to overcompensate for the disappointment?

Quickly offer replacements or better offers, such as a new and improved toy for a lost one or an over-the-top day at the mall when not invited to a classmate’s party. This response might make our kids feel better in the short run, and we feel better when they feel better.

Do you try to distract your child from the disappointment?

Dismiss the disappointment by not really acknowledging it and pushing them to move past it as quickly as possible to avoid the discomfort. I think I see men using this approach more, trying to distract their children from the sad or uncomfortable situation.

Do you chastise your child for their expressions of disappointment?

Tell him to quit crying, get over it, or otherwise dismiss the pain that the disappointment brings. Sometimes parents see their children’s reactions to disappointment as overly dramatic or “not fitting the crime” and want to let them know that their reactions are not warranted.

Do you encourage your child to do something about the disappointment?

Offer healthy choices, such as going for a walk to think about it or asking your child to share her feelings about the situation, acknowledging them without judgment. This approach usually takes time and patience, but has increased long-term benefits.

Dealing with Disappointments through Emotion Coaching

If you chose this last option as the one you are most likely to follow when your child faces disappointment, you are most likely practicing emotion coaching. Emotion coaching means teaching your children the vocabulary and actions that honor and respect emotions. While it might feel like we are acting out of love if we try to take away the pain our children face in their disappointments, we can actually be much more loving by being their support system and encouraging healthy, emotionally secure responses.

Recently my youngest had to deal with a disappointment that just didn’t seem fair. For weeks he had planned his birthday party, and we had just shopped for decorations and cake mixes. The day before his 9th birthday party he woke up with a raging fever. I knew from the fact that his siblings were just recovering from their own severe colds that this was not going to be a one-day fluke. He knew right away what his fever meant, and even though I was aching inside for what I imagined his deflated feelings must be, I waited for him to take the lead.

Of course he was sad, but he was able to use the tools he had learned about disappointments. His siblings and I all told him we understand that he was feeling disappointed and frustrated and acknowledged his feelings, but then he was able to move forward rather quickly. He wanted to see a calendar so we could choose a new date, and then immediately email out a revised invitation. While I admit a part of me wanted to indulge him in a bedside birthday party and shower him with early birthday presents, I knew this wouldn’t help him in the long run. You can’t always have your cake and eat it, too, so you might as well help your kids look for their own ways to savor what is before them, disappointments and all.

Related posts:

  1. When you hit a brick wall: 6 steps for dealing with parenting challenges
  2. Dealing with a Difficult Pregnancy
  3. Dealing with Feelings of Inadequacy as a Mother

View full post on Parenting Tips For Raising Successful Kids |

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