Recently, we had to cancel a much-awaited Primary field trip due to rains. As parents and children came in, we heard various responses to the news. Some children were so upset, they didn’t come to school. On the other end, we had a child who met us with a plan B and a plan C as backup, so we could go ahead with an outing!

Much as we’d like to, we can’t protect our children from ever being hurt or disappointed. There will be times when things don’t go to plan. This can be a good thing. As adults, we can provide children a safe space to learn to cope with disappointment. This will empower them to face the challenges that are sure to come later in their lives.

What can you do when your child is feeling disappointed?

  • Your child takes their cues from you. It’s possible some things don’t affect them as much, or for the same reasons. It’s important to keep your own feelings aside when you talk to your child, and hear what THEY are feeling.
  • Listen and acknowledge the problem. Don’t downplay it, or rush your child into moving on. What they’re feeling is valid. Naming the emotion they’re feeling helps them recognize it, and remember it the next time something similar happens.
  • Address and correct the responses to that disappointment, when necessary – being sad is okay, hitting because you’re sad isn’t.

Once the immediate reaction has passed and the child is ready to talk:

  • Discuss if there’s anything you can do to solve the problem. Let your child do the problem-solving rather than suggesting solutions yourself. Remember, they’re building skills for life. Initially, children may need to be given an option for a solution as a starting point. Make sure the solutions offered aren’t ‘quick-fixes’.

In this instance, where rain cancelled a field trip, a viable solution may be rescheduling for a date when the weather is better. Taking them somewhere else yourself instead is NOT a viable solution, since it teaches your child that you will always rescue them. Again, it is important for them to process that not everything works out as planned.

  • Discuss tangible things that can help your child recentre when they’re feeling big emotions. It may be a calm corner of the house they want to go to, or a person they want to hug, or an object they want to hold tight. Help them set up this mechanism for future instances.
  • Make it a point to model and talk through times when you are disappointed, so they realize this is a challenge adults work on too.

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