Every parent’s heart breaks when they see their child disappointed. But coping with disappointment is an important lesson.
Whether you’re saying ‘no’ to a mobile phone or to clothes that aren’t age-appropriate or if your child didn’t get picked for a game or receive an invite to a birthday party, don’t shield them from life’s knocks.
“Disappointment’s inevitable. Dealing with it effectively is good for children,” says Imelda Graham, training coordinator with Barnardos, who urges against minimising disappointment, and pretending everything’s ok.
Acknowledging the child’s feelings is vital. “Give a strong message that ‘I can see you’re very upset’,” she says. If your child hasn’t been invited to a schoolmate’s birthday — particularly if others in the class weren’t invited — reassure your child that this isn’t likely to be personal. Remind him that the other child’s parents probably put a limit on numbers or only children who lived near the party were invited.
“Also, ask your child why they think this has happened. Maybe they never play with the particular child or they’ve recently had an argument. Whatever the cause of disappointment, it’s good to ask your child what they think led to this,” says Graham.
Make clear that disappointing results doesn’t necessarily mean dead ends.
If they don’t make the hurling team, maybe they need to train more. Or, perhaps, focus on the particular aspect of hurling they love — if it’s running, maybe they can get involved in athletics.
Parentline CEO Rita O’Reilly recommends explaining why you said ‘no’ to your child. “Saying ‘no, I’m not getting you a mobile phone because it’s too expensive’ may not help the child straightaway but knowing you’re not saying ‘no’ for the sake of it will help in the long-term. Explaining also keeps parents calm and rational.”
Parents should model positive ways of dealing with disappointment. Say to your child: ‘I’m really sad today — my friend was due to visit at the weekend and now she has cancelled’. Talk about your disappointment — ‘I haven’t seen her in ages’ — and discuss how you can move on. Ask your child, ‘What can we, as a family, do together this weekend that would be fun?’
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