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Helping Kids Deal With Disappointment

As schools close, and birthday parties, graduations, sporting events and all other activities grind to a halt for the foreseeable future, millions of children, tweens, teens and young adults are faced with intense disappointment.

There are some good approaches to take, and some to avoid, that can help us emerge from this with more skills to deal with life’s disappointments as they come.

It sounds trite, but this is a unique teaching experience where we have the opportunity to help our children – and ourselves – learn resilience and how to deal with the disappointments in life. There are some good approaches to take, and some to avoid, that can help us emerge from this with more skills to deal with life’s disappointments as they come.

Thing to do when helping kids deal with disappointment

The most important thing you can do in this moment is to validate your child’s disappointment. Let them know it is normal, healthy and reasonable to feel disappointed. Let them know you feel disappointment on their behalf. Let them talk about it, cry about it or process it in the way that works for them. Some kids cry, others withdraw, others become angry. There is no right or wrong way to experience or express disappointment.

Help your child label this emotion using words like, “I know just how deeply disappointed you are and that is making you feel and act very angry/sad. I understand, and it is okay to feel that way. I am so sorry and I hurt with you.”

Help your child find ways of coping with the disappointment so that they don’t get stuck in the emotion and can continue functioning. Say things like, “the disappointment isn’t going to away and it will always be sad that you didn’t get to do that planned activity. However, we need to make sure we keep going and lifting ourselves up. Let’s find something that helps us right now.” This acknowledges the feeling and doesn’t dismiss it, but also helps encourage them to move forward.

Brainstorm ways to help cope. Journal or draw about it, connect with a friend who is also disappointed, plan a distracting activity, do an online meditation or mindfulness exercise together. Distraction and focusing on other things can help ease the pain. Talk about other things you are looking forward to in the future.

Let them know that you are there to support them and that you will get through this together.

Excerpted from “Helping Kids Deal With Disappointment” by child psychologist Eleanor Mackey, PhD and published in Rise and Shine from Children’s National Hospital. Read the full article for more details.

Source: Children’s National Hospital: Rise and Shine | Helping Kids Deal With Disappointment, https://riseandshine.childrensnational.org/helping-kids-deal-with-disappointment | ©2020 Children’s National Hospital

Children’s National Hospital, based in Washington, D.C., has been serving the nation’s children since 1870.


Care Managers can arrange a free 30 minute Care Consultation so you can explore options with an expert. We invite you to call or email our Care Managers at 650.688.3625 or careteam@chconline.org to set up an initial Parent Consultation appointment.

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