Liz Pearce, Director of Parent Engagement
Children’s Museum of Richmond
If we want our children to be successful in a rapidly changing world with technology that becomes obsolete more quickly than ever, and job descriptions that change overnight, we must teach them to be resilient. Resilience and resourcefulness can ONLY come from experimentation, repeated trials AND failure in a safe nurturing environment.
Here’s what to do when your child is disappointed:
Name the feeling they seem to be having. Saying things like, "Not being invited to that party must have made you feel pretty sad and rejected," or "It’s unfortunate your team didn’t win the game,” can let a child know that her parents are noticing her and are concerned about what might be going on in her life.
Ask for More Information - Encourage a child to elaborate with questions like "What happened that made it worse?" Keep him talking with more non-intrusive questions like, "Then what happened?" or "Wow, what was that like?"
When They Talk...Actively Listen - Parents and grown-ups today are busy, and many are stressed themselves, but it's vital to pause and take time to really listen to their child. This is an opportunity for your child to vent – just a little bit – and expel some negative energy. Avoid analyzing every detail, or repeating discouraging thoughts.
Put Things in Perspective – Discuss the difference between a setback and a tragedy. Setbacks can be overcome by brainstorming new solutions, setting a goal, and getting actively involved in the plan. Tragedies tend to be life altering.
Setbacks Often Make Us Stronger - Remind children that mistakes have to happen for true learning to occur. Walking would not be possible if we hadn’t fallen down repeatedly as toddlers. Our muscles had to be strengthened bit by bit, first to begin standing and later to move us around the room. Riding a bike without training wheels probably resulted in a few spills along the way, too. It’s the same way with disappointing outcomes.
Look for the Silver Lining – When your child is ready to move forward, help him or her take an objective look at what lesson could be learned. Children that become resilient see disappointment as temporary, but part of life. They know that difficult times don’t last, because they’ve lived through them before.
Acknowledge the disappointment, discover solutions to avoid the mistake in the future, and then move on. The mistake is now in the past, and better days are ahead!