But for children, disappointment can come in numerous forms. Even a seemingly minor hurt can often seem like such a complete disaster that the child truly has a difficult time accepting and dealing with it. And, in many cases, such as when a beloved pet dies or a close friend moves away, the hurt can be very real and deep and won't disappear easily.
While responding to childhood disappointments can seem difficult, there are good ways to do it.
You can make a child feel less sad, avoid more serious emotional issues, and, when you respond well, help open communication that can strengthen the child/parent/teacher relationship.
How do you begin to respond to a child's disappointment?
- Listening is step one. Don't minimize or discount the story your child has to tell, even if it seems trivial to you. It's very real to your child, and a responses such as, "That's no big deal," or, "You'll forget about it by tomorrow," or, "Big boys don't cry," only serve to convince your child that the feelings are invalid; that you don't really understand or even care.
- Don't hurry in with a pleasant experience or reward to make the hurt go away. This can establish flawed coping patterns that carry over into adulthood and can present very real future problems.
- Talk "with" your child, rather than "to" her or him. Don't begin an interrogation when something seems wrong but instead tell him or her in a gentle way that you've noticed they're unhappy and encourage them to tell you what has happened.
- Don't be judgmental about what is being reported but instead offer sympathy and understanding. Let your child know you empathize because you've suffered your own disappointments. Don't try to top your child's story, but instead listen and sympathize. Just being able to share can do much to minimize the hurt.
Adapted from American Counseling Association’s Counseling Corner Blog.