Dealing with disappointment
February 20, 2012
by Jenni Sebora

As parents, we have all watched our children experience disappointment. She doesn’t make the cheerleading squad. He didn’t place in the science fair competition. She did not make the varsity basketball squad. She didn’t get chosen for school royalty. And the list goes on.

It can be heart-wrenching to watch your child experience disappointment. It certainly is appropriate to acknowledge and affirm your children’s feelings. “I am sorry you didn’t make the team.” But we don’t want to dwell on it. If we dwell on it and continuously complain about it, they will, too. They may internalize the situation and start to believe that they are failures.

Inevitably, disappointments will happen, just as they do for everyone, including adults. We didn’t get the interview. We didn’t get the job. We didn’t get the loan for the house we wanted.

Disappointments and dealing with them are a part of life. How we as parents and adults deal with these situations and bounce back will have a great influence on how our children will bounce back from setbacks.

We certainly don’t want to deny our children’s raw feelings about experiencing setbacks. It is natural to feel sad and angry, but we have to help them deal with those feelings appropriately, put them in perspective, and not let those feelings take hold.

When I was in high school and college, I was involved in many activities and excelled, especially in cross country and track. I was my own worst critic when I didn’t perform as well as I wanted to. But my dad was there and helped me put these situations in perspective. He was always calm and said, “You did the best you could today.” Then he usually took me out for an ice cream or some kind of treat to help me realize that tomorrow is another day.

His response helped me learn to deal with disappointments, and also helped me to realize there will always be another day, and to not shy away from it. As in the play, “Annie,” Orphan Annie sang, “The sun’ll come out tomorrow . . .” It does, and it will.

We don’t want our children to dwell on the setbacks; rather, learn from them and move on. Learning to deal with setbacks and moving on from them in a positive manner is a life lesson.

Preparation can also help our children deal with certain situations. There will most likely always be those times that spring upon us that don’t allow for any prepping for any disappointment. If our children are trying out for a team, talk with them about the possible outcomes

Talk with them and role model how you handle disappointments. Talk with them about setbacks that you have encountered, and how you dealt with them and learned from them. Keep in mind the age of your child as to the extent of the details you share with them.

Helping children keep things in perspective and reminding ourselves to do the same is important. Keeping things positive and using humor when appropriate can be key to keeping things in perspective.

A Japanese proverb says this, “Fall seven times; stand up eight.”

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