How Can I Help My Child Process Feelings of Disappointment?
Softball canceled! 4-H Club Meeting postponed! Graduation TBD! Is this what your kids are facing? Many of us are facing disappointment during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially with canceled and postponed events. Help your child get through these tough times by considering some of the following suggestions.
Acknowledge your child’s feelings. Whatever emotions your child may be feeling around their disappointment is okay, and they need to know that. It’s okay to be angry, frustrated, scared or lonely. Validate your child’s feelings. While you console your child as they struggle with some difficult emotions, try to help them understand that emotions are not good or bad, but are to be felt. Disappointment is a natural part of life, and this is a chance for you to help them just ‘be’ with these emotions. This is a learning opportunity for your child on how to understand and manage their emotions.
Listen and allow them to grieve. When your child finds out about a canceled or postponed event, they may need some time to grieve and just talk about their feelings before they are ready to move on to finding a solution or alternative activity. Give them space to be sad, grouchy, moody—whatever they are feeling. Let them know you are also sad for them. Ask your child what they need; do they need you to just listen, or are they ready to talk about what activities they can try instead? Many times, they just need you to listen.
Give them some control. When your child is ready, let them take the lead on coming up with new plans. This will teach them a valuable life skill—being able to find creative solutions during a challenging situation. You can also give them the opportunity to have some control over their day-to-day routine, not just handling the canceled or postponed event. Perhaps you can co-create a schedule, allow them to give input on family meals or they can outline family members’ weekly chores. Having a sense of control during a pandemic can also help tame anxious feelings.
Create new rituals or adjust the old ones. Brainstorm ideas with your child about what they can do instead of the activity or event that was canceled or postponed. For example, with summer camp, maybe a few friends can all set up camps in their backyards for a night and use Google Meetups, Zoom or another platform to virtually “camp” together for an evening. For a missed graduation, friends can get dressed up and have a virtual ceremony and dance party. And remember, if an event is postponed, it’s not canceled! Find a creative way to count down the days until the new event date.
Find a way to help others. Helping others is a great way to help ourselves feel better. Have your child think of ways they can help others right now. Need some ideas? The NH 4-H Virtual Community Citizenship page has some great ideas! https://extension.unh.edu/resource/nh-4-h-virtual-community-center-citizenship
Check out this article for a teen’s perspective on how parents and caregivers can help youth during this time: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2020/04/28/i-wanted-know-how-help-my-teen-through-this-tough-quarantine-so-i-asked-her/
If you think these feelings of disappointment are getting overwhelming or persistent, here are more resources for helping them with their anxiety or depression: