Let Your Kids Be Disappointed

Disappointment is unavoidable.  At some time in our lives – in fact, at many times – we are disappointed.  We may not get the job we wanted or the house we bid on or the behavior of other people disappoints us.  It is important that our children grow up knowing that disappointment is a normal emotion.  Stop calling the league when your child doesn’t make the team.  Stop calling the school when your child isn’t cast in the play.  Do not call the other parent when your child isn’t invited to the party.  Instead, teach your children lessons that they will be able to draw from for many years: 
  • Disappointment is a normal part of life for everyone.  There are other kids who didn’t make the team, get cast in the play or invited to the party.  Even if they were the only person in the situation this time, it happens at other times to other people.  It is important for children to know that their feelings are not only valid but are also common.  There is no shame in feeling sad and disappointed.  We all feel that way from time to time. 
  • Disappointment is survivable.  When parents swoop in to fix the problem, children get the message that being disappointed is too devastating to tolerate.  They get the message that it is so bad that parents cannot let it stand.  That’s not true.  Disappointment does not need to be eradicated.  In most cases in their adult lives, they won’t be able to change the situation.  The notion that all things can be fixed is more damaging than good.  The perception that all similar situations will need to be and can be changed is simply false.
  • Disappointment passes like every other emotion.  They may feel very sad and disappointed today but tomorrow something amazing can happen.  Happiness will come back.  It is important that children grow up knowing that all emotions are temporary.
  • Disappointment requires thought, not drama.  When we join in the drama of disappointment, it becomes huge.  It takes up all of the air in our homes. Everyone begins to act emotionally instead of with thought.  Children need to be taught to consider their actions.   Yes – there are times when we need to teach our children to stand up for themselves but there are other times when we need to simply acknowledge that life doesn’t always go as we hope.  Be careful to be the person who helps children to wisely decide when to act by staying out of the drama yourself.
  • Today’s disappointment could be tomorrow’s opportunity.  In hindsight, we often realize that a disappointment actually led to something even better.   Not being on that team or in that play opens up your schedule to do new things and meet new people.  Not being invited is a sign that it’s time to make a new friend.  Life is what you make of it.  Help your children to cope by validating their emotions, giving them time to feel how they feel and teaching them to be open to new opportunities that will, no doubt, present themselves. 

It is our instinct to protect our children.  We need to be clear about what we actually can protect them from as they continue to grow and become more independent.  We cannot protect them from the emotions that result from the actions of others.  We can teach children to cope and to know that disappointment isn’t devastation by letting them feel and survive it.
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