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The Difficulty of Disappointment

Updated: Mar 5, 2020

For weeks, Lily had poured her heart and soul into running for 1st grade class representative in her new school. She wanted it so badly!

The day came for the vote and she lost. At home she see-sawed between “I’m going to work even harder next time so I can win.” and “Why bother. What’s the point. No one likes me anyway”

Is there anything worse than seeing our kid in pain? Don’t you just want to do anything to make it better?

Disappointment is a very big feeling for your child to deal with. It’s one of the hardest ones for me, even now.

Here’s the thing - there’s 100% chance your own unexpressed, stuck emotions from the past will be the unconscious drivers for how you respond to your child’s emotions now. This can show up as trying to fix their feelings, talk them out of them or make them better with a treat. (I did all of these.) And we do it because we love our kids.

The problem is that building emotional resilience in our child requires sitting with hard feelings, both our own and theirs. The goal is for our child to know that when they have big feelings, they are not on their own with them. Children aren’t wired to handle big feelings alone. They are wired to learn emotional intelligence with a regulated adult. Your child needs to know their grown up can take their big feelings and not be scared of them.

So how do you respond consciously to best help your child?

  1. Begin to bring your awareness to your unconscious drivers. Ask yourself, What feelings weren’t OK growing up? Write down one or two of them.

  2. When your child says something that breaks your heart, like “No one likes me!” PAUSE... BREATHE… This will help stop you from jumping in immediately with something like, “That’s not true, sweetie. You’re a great kid and a good friend.”

  3. VALIDATE. VALIDATE. VALIDATE. Validation is one of the biggest things we can do to nurture emotional and mental health.

Sample validation script:

Child: “No one likes me!”

Adult: PAUSE... BREATHE... “Wow, I hear you, sweetie!” PAUSE... BREATHE... “It must be so hard to feel like no one likes you.” PAUSE... BREATHE...

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