To better contextualize this post, please consider reading Teaching Your Kids About Disappointment (Part 1).
Disappointment in our kids usually shows up as rapid overreacting to a change. What seems like a minor bump in the road to us as adults is a huge deal to our kids who haven’t yet learned the mental flexibility to adapt expectations and feelings to the changes that life often requires. However, every disappointment is an opportunity for us to teach our kids flexibility and healthy expression and help them develop a feeling of agency in their own lives.
We start by labeling the emotion for our kids, just like we do with anger, sadness, and grief. Then we ask questions to get tuned in and understand what’s causing the disappointment. Then we address any corrections that need to be made.
………………………..My conversation with my son continues…………………
Me: “Dorian, I can hear you are very disappointed that we aren’t going straight home. I know disappointment feels really bad and really strong. What were you looking forward to when we got home from school today?”
Son: “Xavier and I were gonna ride our bikes to the park, but now we probably won’t have time by the time we get back.”
Me: “Oh, that makes sense. I didn’t know you had made plans with Xavier. Would you please ask me the next time you want to make plans for after school so I can either help make that happen or let you know you need to plan for a different day when I don’t have errands?”
Son: “Yeah, I guess that would’ve been smart.”
Me: “Ok, and when you feel angry and sad and disappointed, is it ok to yell at me and use mean words?”
Son: “No, I’m sorry. I was just so angry, and I forgot to say that.”
Me: “Thanks for saying sorry, dude. Disappointment does make us feel angry and sad, so when you feel disappointed, you can say ‘I’m disappointed and angry and sad all at the same time’, and tell me why and ask for what you want, ok?”
We can also help our kids learn personal responsibility and agency by giving them the opportunity to ask for what they want and even teaching them to ask for a compromise. Taking action toward an alternate desire to replace the one that had to change goes a long way toward relieving disappointment in both kids and adults. Teaching kids to ask for a compromise teaches them to consider what everyone wants and how to benefit not only themselves, but others involved in the situation too. It also teaches them a respectful way to ask for a change or an alternative solution without whining, plus it encourages creative problem-solving.
“Mom?”, Dorian asked me, “Can we make a compromise?”
“Maybe. What kind of compromise do you have in mind?”, I replied.
“Are there any errands that could wait until tomorrow? Like, could we do some of the errands but not all of them so we can get home faster and maybe have time to ride bikes?” Dorian asked.
I replied, “Sure, bud, thanks for asking for a compromise that helps both of us.”
Teaching our kids to recognize and handle disappointment helps them learn not to sin when angry and hurt (Ephesians 4:26). Teaching them to ask for what they want in response to disappointment also translates to their growing relationships with God. When life hurts, we are supposed to reach out to God, be honest about how we are feeling, and ask for what we need while also being open and flexible to the truth that while he is always working out good things for us, it doesn’t always look the way we expect. Holding both our desires and needs and God’s desires, sovereign rights, and eternal perspective in mind when we cry out to God for an alternate solution is an essential part of spiritual maturity for both our children and us!
Author: Sara Hall
Sara Hall is a writer, teacher, volunteer ministry leader, #boymom, and wife of a phenomenal entrepreneur. She is the author of Tasting Dirt: When You’re Disappointed With God. Sara lives to help people overcome the emotional barriers preventing their best relationships with God and other people by vulnerably sharing her own mental health journey and teaching how to apply the Bible to everyday life and relationships.
You can connect with Sara by visiting her blog @EmotionCulture