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We all face daily challenges in today's complicated and demanding world. ACA’s Counseling Corner Blog offers thoughtful ideas, suggestions, and strategies for helping you to live a happier and healthier life.

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Mar 05, 2018

Helping A Child Handle Disappointment

Disappointment comes to everyone. As adults we, hopefully, have learned that when people or activities may sometimes let us down, we can keep such things in perspective and find ways to overcome our dashed hopes.

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 solid reasons to do it in a good way.  We can make our child feel less sad, avoid more serious emotional issues, and, when we respond well, we help open communication that can strengthen the child - parent 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 response such as, "That's no big deal," or, "You'll forget about it by tomorrow," only serves to convince your child that you don't really understand or even care.

You also don't want to hurry in with a pleasant experience or reward to make the hurt go away. This can establish flawed patterns that carry over into adulthood and can present very real future problems.

Instead, talk "with" your child, rather than "to" him or her. 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.

In some cases, being a good listener may not be enough. If you notice a persistent change in behavior over time, and if your child is refusing to talk about what's wrong, it may be appropriate to seek help from a trained professional counselor. Your child's school counselor is always a good place to start.

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  1. 4 Tequila 05 Mar
    As a mother of two children and under the age 5. I’m happy and encouraged to have read this. 

    Thank you!
  2. 3 Warren Schaeffer 09 Mar
     In working with young children, I see many children who are unable to handle a disappointment and need someone to talk to. I really found poignant was to ask saying I have noticed something is wrong, would you like to tell me what happened? I like this because you are building a dialogue and a connection.  Thank you.
  3. 2 LaDrina Eves 16 Mar

    Being a mother of 3 children ranging between ages of 1 and 7 this was really helpful. My oldest daughter she gets disappointed when she doesn't get good grades on assignments. She breaks down. I kindly ask her to explain to me what's going on. Once she shared her emotion I looked at the worksheets and emphasized on the ones that she did receive good grades on and explained to her that she is an awesome student just have to make some corrections to a few worksheets. I wanted her to know that this is a reality and mistakes will happen. Its all about how you learn from them and make positive corrections that counts. Immediately she felt better and was able to understand and sat down right away and made the correction like it was easy as 123.

  4. 1 Cheryl Allman 16 Mar
    Nice opener, Warren. Thanks for sharing with us.


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