Help Your Children Deal with Disappointment in a Positive Way
We all know that life isn’t perfect, and that we can choose to deal with those disappointments in a positive or negative way. But did you realize that how you choose to react is also determining how your children will react to their own disappointments?
In his article Every Day Lessons, Dr. Steve Kahn, a local psychologist and author of Insightful Parenting: Making Moments Count gives valuable advice about how your behavior can help your child(ren) better deal with life’s unexpected events in a positive way.
Every Day Lessons
Imagine two parents, both having their day interrupted by car trouble. Appointments need to be canceled and there are unexpected expenses. One parent feels her anxiety level rise, talks about the “stupid” car, and wonders aloud about whether she can trust the car mechanic. The other parent decides right away that while unfortunate, car trouble is an acceptable part of life and carries herself in a relaxed, positive manner.
Both parents are being watched by their children. And while any one incident is not critical, repeated throughout childhood, children either learn to float through unwanted times or learn to get upset whenever their day doesn’t unfold according to their wishes. We use the unwanted events of our lives to teach our children how to stay well during the unwanted events of their lives.
And the added benefit is that remembering this helps us pull it off. After all, when we have car trouble, the day is going to be affected, like it or not. Being grumpy doesn’t fix the car. These imperfect days, with their unwanted events, are inevitable and they are also necessary. That is, they are necessary in order for us to teach our children how to cope with them in a mature and even-tempered manner. Unwanted events are needed so that children can learn how to learn to live in a world that routinely includes unwanted events.
We have to teach our children to live their life and not waste their energy and good spirits on the life they would prefer to be living that day. So much depends on whether they decide to face the day in front of them and bring to it their best selves, or whether they sit and stew. There is nothing easy about this, either for them during their childhood or for us as full-grown adults, but it is one of the most important lessons parents can teach their children.
Every day lessons. Not everyday lessons in the sense that they are routine or ordinary, but important lessons that we can teach every day. Our days will more often be imperfect than perfect. In fact, if you keep this in mind, you will find opportunities every day that you can use to guide your children to resilience and the inner strength that will help them all their lives. Car trouble becomes a chance to role model how we choose to view such times to keep our balance.
When their friend is sick and has to cancel a play date, or when they drop the ball and their team loses, we have a plan in place. We say things like: “life includes this,” or “things are still pretty good even though they aren’t perfect,” or perhaps “into each life some rain must fall.” It is not so much what we say as it is the attitude of accepting whatever life is handing to us that day. We teach them how to think about the disappointing, unwanted event.
No matter how much we try to shield our children from stress and disappointments, they will need to know how to stay even-tempered and how to keep their mood during those times. We can help them see that whining about the canceled play date doesn’t bring it back any more than our grouchiness fixes the car. In fact, many times it seems as if we cause ourselves more discomfort by our reaction to the unwanted event than the discomfort inherent in the unwanted event itself
Using the moments of our lives to teach our children what they need to learn is the foundation of Insightful Parenting. When we can approach the day with open eyes to see the teaching opportunity in front of us, our children will benefit tremendously. After all, it just might take all the moments of childhood to develop a resilient young adult. With our model, they can learn by watching us float through our unwanted events years before we learned it for ourselves.
Dr. Steve Kahn is a psychologist in St. Paul, Minnesota and the author of Insightful Parenting: Making Moments Count. Please check www.drstevekahn.com for more (free) articles about parenting or to learn more about the book, available both in paperback and as an audio book.