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How To Explain Disappointment To A Child

Summary

Hi, I'm Nicholeen Peck and I teach parenting and family communications and self-government and in this article, I'm going to be talking about how to explain disappointment to a child. During this story, we're going to talk about how to talk to your child about disappointment

I'm going to share a story about disappointment from my own life and then also what you can do about disappointment, so how to help the child cope with it too because that's another important part of the conversation. 

How To Teach Children To Accept A "No" Answer

When my children were little I taught them skills that they needed for communication successOne of those skills that I taught them was accepting "no" answers. So. the steps to accepting a "no" answer are you look at the person or the situation, you keep a calm face, voice, and body and then you say okay or disagree appropriately and then you drop the subject. So, what that means is that you acknowledge I'm getting a "no" answer or things are not going my way, I'm going to choose to be calm about it. 

I'm going to say, okay that's just the way it is. I can't change it sometimes or I'm going to talk to somebody about it in a calm way using another skill is called disagreeing appropriately and then I'm going to not think about it anymore. I'm just going to drop the subject and I'm going to move on. 

How My Son Handled Disappointment

So, this skill laid the foundation for my son, Porter, to be able to handle a very discouraging situation that had happen just a short time ago. My son Porter is my youngest child, he's 17 years old. He loves soccer and for years and years, he has played soccer. He's played on club teams and different rec teams and he also has played on school teams. So, over at the local high school, well recently he decided that he was going to be trying out for the high school team again. 

How To Help Children Handle Disappointment

Make Varsity Team

Now, he was pretty convinced that he would make the varsity team because he had already played on the JV team and he played really well. He also had improved his soccer abilities a lot. He had worked out at the gym, he'd done lots of extra training, he was faster than he ever had been before. 

Try-out

He knew he could make that varsity team so he went to the tryout and before he was going to the tryout he said, mom. what if I don't make it and I said well, Porter that's always an option, right? You could not make it, that's just some of the life disappointments that sometimes we have to deal with. But Porter you know how to accept and no answer so, if you don't make the team for some reason, then just accept the no answer, drop the subject and move on because there's no use getting angry over it. 

Meltdown

There's no use being upset and, you know, having a meltdown over it. He looked at me said mom, meltdown? No, really, he doesn't have meltdowns. I know that but I also know he might internalize it kind of deep and say ah, that must mean I'm not good enough, right? When that's not always necessarily what it means when you don't make a team. So anyway Porter went to the tryout and that night they got the results for who made what team. 

Making Decision

Well, he got a special email from his coach and the email said Porter, this is the hardest decision I've ever had to make because I really don't like having to tell someone that they have to play on the JV team again, but you don't get to be on the varsity team. 

You get to be on the JV team but I would like for you to be the captain of the JV team and he said you know, I'm really sorry I hope you'll do this. Well, Porter read the email to me and he said well, I guess that's cool that I'm going to be the captain of the JV team he said but it is kind of disappointing, isn't it, because I really wanted to be on that varsity team and now I know that even the coach wanted me probably on the varsity team but there was enough people that he had to decide who wasn't going to be on the varsity team and I got chosen. 

It was hard but when we talked about it, we talked about how he could accept that "no" answer and drop the subject and how pretty much he'd already done that and he was doing such a great job. 

He was able to move on and lead that JV team to lots of victories. In fact, his JV team did fantastically and I know that next year the coach is looking forward to having Porter on the varsity team even though he didn't get to be on the varsity team this year. So, this was a vital skill that helped Porter. 

Helping Preparation

This is part of the how do you help a child prepare to handle disappointment, you teach them the skills they need for success and one of those vital skills is learning how to accept a "no" answer. Now, we want to talk about how to explain the disappointment feeling to a person for them to fully manage it. 

How To Explain Disappointment To A Child

Explain Little Heart To Heart

There was a time with all of my children where we had to have a little heart-to-heart about disappointing things. There's going to be something that happens, right? Maybe you lose something or somebody says something that's unkind or you didn't get something you wanted like I mentioned with Porter not making the team but when he was little, there were other little disappointments that happened along the way, I remember that he lost something that was very dear to him. 

In fact, his sister, London, lost something even dearer to her. She lost her little baby doll who she called Emma. She took Emma was everywhere with her and she could not find Emma anywhere. 

London came to me with tears streaming down her face. Mom, I can't find Emma and of course, my heart is just broken because I know how much she loves Emma. I said London, let's take some deep breaths and we'll see if we can locate Emma. So, we looked all over, London got calm enough to go on the search with us and we looked for her little baby Emma but we could not find it anywhere. 

Missing

Emma was lost, truly lost. In fact, it kind of amazed me because Emma was almost always attached to London. I didn't know how Emma could go missing so at that point, London got very sad. She started to cry again. She was probably 4 years old at the time, maybe 5 and I said London, it's time for us to talk about disappointments. Right now we've lost Emma and we can't find her and that feels really disappointing. 

Sometimes it feels like sadness, it feels like we wish something could go a different way, it feels like we don't have control over what happens to us because something else happened that we didn't choose to have happened. 

How To Accept

Those are all things that can be very disappointing to us but London, we know something that can help us with these disappointments and that is accepting a "no" answer. Do you remember how to accept a "no" answer and she said oh yeah. You look at the person, you keep a calm face, voice, and body, you say okay or disagree appropriately and then you drop the subject and I said that's right, you know all the steps. 

 Importance Of Giving Children Hope When Explaining Disappointment

Now, we're gonna look at this situation of losing Emma, that's the person, okay, we're gonna look at that situation and we're going to think I've got to be calm. We'll find Emma sometime. I think it's important for people to know there's hope, that things aren't always lost, things can change for the better and that's an important thing to explain to children when they're understanding disappointment. 

So I said you know we might find Emma and if not, if we look for a while and we still never find Emma, I'm sure there'll be another time where we can get you another baby doll that will be really special to you too. So, I said let's do this. Let's accept the "no" answer so she looked at me, she kept a calm face, voice, and body and she said okay, I can be okay and then she dropped the subject. 

She still kept looking for Emma for a while but she was not upset. She was not crying or stolen instead, she was hopeful and I think her search was a lot better because of that. Now, you've got to know the end of the story. So, the end of the story is we did find Emma, but it was not until about 3 weeks later.

Somehow Emma had been tucked underneath a bed and we never thought of looking under that particular bed, and so we did not find Emma for 3 weeks but when we did, London knew that there truly was a light at the end of her disappointment tunnel and that she had done the right thing by choosing to be calm and being okay until she could find Emma and know that everything truly would be okay. She learned the power that she had within. 

When you're talking to children about disappointments, they need to recognize they have the power to choose to be okay and they have the power to have hope for the future. They don't have to have it tear them down. They have that much power with their own choices. 

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