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