Talking with Your Kids About Disappointment

Lots of kids are disappointed right now. And many parents are wondering how to talk with them. Whether it’s school closures, missed vacations, shuttered restaurants, isolation from grandparents or no more playdates, there is a lot to be disappointed about. No parent likes to deliver bad news, and when you are already struggling yourself, it’s even harder to let down your kids.

We live in a time where it has been possible to shield our children from many of life’s bumps and bruises. But, according to a recent article in Atlantic Magazine, that’s not always a good idea. As Christians, we know it is generally our disappointments which draw us to God in deeper ways and fit us for greater service in His kingdom. Apparently, it is our childhood disappointments which teach us to live in uncertain times with greater peace and hope. Talking with kids about their disappointments is one of the most valuable and formative privileges you have as a parent. Here are three, simple guidelines from Philippians 4 to keep in mind as you do that.

Attitude

Your perspective as a parent will greatly influence your child’s attitude, so deal with yourself first. If present circumstances seem like a bump in the road to you, they are more likely to seem that way to your kids. On the other hand, if you are frightened or overly apologetic or angry, they are more likely to be upset, too. Pray it through, sleep on it, talk with your support group, adjust your own attitude BEFORE talking with your child. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Phil. 4:6

Adaptability

One of the best indicators of emotional maturity is resilience, the ability to adapt to new information and situations. This is an opportunity to help your children develop more resilience. Allowing them to experience appropriate dissatisfaction and disappointment helps them learn how to handle it. Keep in mind they will not be disappointed by the same things you are, so ask good questions. (E.g., “What’s the worst part about missing school?”) And then help them develop a healthy perspective on their issues. (E.g., “I miss my friends, too, but I’m glad we have ways to stay connected. Who would you like to connect with soon?”)  I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Phil. 4:11-13

Action

Talking, praying and connecting are actions we all can take to cope with some of our disappointments. Other important activities for your children might include regular exercise, one-on-one time with parents and a dependable routine. Find ways of working fun and laughter into your schedule, too, because a little joy goes a long way. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Phil. 4:4

If you have specific questions about your own disappointments or parenting your disappointed children, ask them on our Questions page. If you have thoughts, comments or experiences to offer others, please post them as a reply on this page. We love to hear from you.


Related Material:

Helping Anxious Children – DesiringGod.org

What-If’s – Focus on the Family

Speak Life

The following piece was written by an eloquent client of mine whose heart was wounded when she confessed her deeper feelings for a good friend. He apparently wanted to be sure no misunderstanding or future disappointments would occur, so he replied, “It will never happen.” His words compounded other words from her past which had torn away at her self-worth. Now she fears she is not, nor ever will be, enough – that she will never be loved. Although she has not sent it, she wrote this letter to the man who broke her spirit. I hope it will speak to your spirit – and maybe even to hers.


You Spoke Death

I was in Hobby Lobby a couple of weeks ago and saw something that made me think of you. I felt a nudging to buy it for you and I thought, “God, why would you ask me to do this?” Then God replied, “Why would you let this man stop you from being who I created you to be… a giver, someone who sees needs and tries to help stand in the gaps and encourage others, to remind them I still see them even when no one is watching, that I see them?” I left the store, with a reminder of who I used to be in Christ and who I am now. I no longer stop. I walk by, and I try to make as little contact as possible.

I wish years ago when I held up my heart that you could have spoken life and been gracious instead of saying, “It will never happen.” I wish you could have known that you spoke death to me and who God was creating me to be. I wish you could have said, “I love you. I love the heart you have for God and the way He has created you to have a servant’s heart and encourage others. I have a different vision for my life, but if I was older and liked chunky girls, well then, I would be all about this, but that isn’t the case. I know God has a special person for you who can love you in a way that I cannot. I will start praying with you for God to bring that person who enjoys playing and serving and wants to build a life encouraging and growing God’s kingdom. And while I am praying I promise to continue to be your friend and help you grow in areas that will help you achieve what God has placed in your heart, and I know that these times will not be wasted because God will be working in and on me at the same time to grow me into a more godly man, better able to communicate, and that this walk will glorify God even if we both know it does not end in marriage to one another but in growth for His Kingdom and that we would ultimately become better versions of ourselves and better spouses for who I believe God has for both of us in the future. Thank you for trusting me enough to share your heart. God Bless!”

That is who I saw when I looked at you. But that isn’t who you are. Maybe I never knew you at all.


The man these words were meant to reach may never see them, but others will. There are two things any one of us can take away from her profound message. First, be careful with your words. They are not meant to serve you but to serve those around you, and they may have a more lasting impact than you could ever guess. Serve God with your words.

God Speaks Life

Second, mortal man is a flawed, fallible, careless and limited creature. Do not allow the words of a fellow human being to dictate your identity in Christ. What God has said, man cannot overrule. You are never unloved, never hopeless, never alone, no matter what anyone says to you or about you.

I hope my client speaks those words of life to herself that she wished to hear from another. Better yet, I hope she can hear God speak those words to her.

God showed his love for us when he sent his only Son into the world to give us life. Real love isn’t our love for God, but his love for us. (1 Jn 4:9-10, CEV)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Rom 15:13, ESV)

Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. (Ps. 73:23-24, ESV)

Speak life to someone today.


Related Content:

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

imageDear Christian Counselor,

I have decided to break up with my boyfriend. We have been dating online for 4 months and have gotten emotionally close. He loves me and wants to marry me, but I do not want to pursue a romantic relationship any further. I want to be as gentle and loving as possible in this process because I know what it’s like to be on the other side. I need help in what to say, what not to say, and how much I should say. Can you help me? Thank you!

Agapephilia


Dear Agapephilia,

Your desire to be kind and honest in this situation is admirable. I also commend you for being aware of what you want. No doubt, it is difficult to end a relationship with someone. Your best bet is to go with your inclination to communicate with kindness and honesty. Focus on what you want to let him know. You never have to share more than you feel safe sharing, even if it means repeating what you’ve already said.

It might help you to practice with an empty chair or a friend in order to become more confident in communicating your message. Some people like to write down key points or even to script the entire conversation. You could then read that message over the phone to him.

With all of this said, he will most likely still feel hurt regardless of how gently you deliver your message. You cannot rescue him from that feeling. You also do not have to apologize for your decision. It might take him some time and the help of friends to grieve and process the end of your relationship.

Lastly, decide ahead of time what you want your relationship to be like after you break up. Some will disagree with this, but I recommend making a clean break. That means no communicating or staying friends until both parties have the opportunity to heal and move on. Be mindful of family or friends you can talk to afterward about the breakup. God’s love will be there for you, as well as your ex; neither of you need to walk through this alone.

–Jessica