Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Chronically Disappointed Kid

Kids are forced to deal with disappointment every day. Whether the disappointment is as simple as no more snacks before dinner, or a cancelled play date or as difficult as a bad grade on a test they studied hard for or a team they tried out for and didn’t make the cut, it’s, unfortunately, a part of life. Even as adults, we experience disappointment in the things we do or thing people do to us. And yes, even our beautiful, talented, sweet, energetic kids can disappoint us more often than some of us would like to admit. As adults, we know we must take the bad with the good. We know life is an up and down journey (hopefully more ups than downs), and that through failure, we learn more about ourselves, our needs, our wants and our resilience. How would we know the true feeling of success without all the failures along the way? Would the success mean as much if we didn’t struggle a little to obtain it? No, probably not. But what happens when your child seems to always be disappointed? And what if, as her parent, you feel slightly responsible for her stream of disappointment?

This school year, we moved our 10 year old (now 11), to a new school. I felt her old school had lost its focus on creating a sense of community while nurturing our children. There was a lack of communication between teacher and parent and you could tell, thanks to the principal, even the teachers didn’t seem happy nor did many of the parents. Instead of suffering through another unsuccessful academic year, my husband and I decided to move her. My daughter was highly upset (and I completely understand that part, I would be too), and I think, to a great extent, she made it her mission to show how unhappy she was with her new school and our decision to take her away from her friends, every day. Disappointment is the cornerstone of her life at her new school and each day, a new brick of disappointment is added. Add to that a bully and a string of events during the school year she was overlooked for.

Today, my 11 year old came home disappointed yet again. Her class has been preparing for a field trip to BizTown where the students run a simulated town for the day. It’s a great way to teach kids how a town runs from banking to working and shopping. Well, she ran for Mayor of BizTown and lost which was disappointing but not overly so. Then, she listed three jobs she would like at BizTown and had an interview where she was told that she would probably get the news anchor job. She was thrilled because she loves to perform in front of people. Well, today, they handed out the jobs and, not only did she not get the job she interviewed for (welcome to reality), but she didn’t get any of her three choices. She got a job as a store clerk. Tears streamed down her face as I tucked her into bed and tried to convince her that she will make the best clerk they have ever had. But, really, I was a little pissed - I was disappointed too! Every time there is a performance or something significant, she seems to get overlooked. I could understand if she had played a significant role in the 5th grade play or if she was chosen to sing a special part in the Christmas show but she didn’t and it seems as though the same kids get the same preferential treatment. It’s the same kids who get the best parts – EVERY SINGLE TIME!

I was frustrated and sad for my daughter. It’s been a difficult transition this year and without any positive experiences it’s hard to offer hope of something better next time. Teaching our children ways to cope with disappointment is one of the best tools we can give our children so they can handle all of what life throws at them. And, as parents, we can learn a thing or two as well. I had to do a little research on how to exactly deal with this chronic disappointment my daughter seems to be wallowing in and below is some sound advice I found.

     1.  Don’t ignore the disappointment or brush it under the rug. Address it and have your child share why they think it happened, what went wrong and how they think they can solve it or avoid it in the future.
      2.  Don’t step in too soon. Give them time to work it out on their own. We sometimes forget how resilient and resourceful our children are. Encouraging them to think out solutions but not deciding for them teaches them what they are capable of and allows them to see how strong they really are. Okay, I kinda did step in on this one. I sent the teacher and email and it went like this:

Dear …..
I was just curious on how the jobs were selected for BizTown. Jessica didn't get any of her three choices and is quite upset. I was hoping you could explain how the process works so I can help her through this. 

It's been a long year and she feels like she is always overlooked and, again, I find myself having to talk her off the ledge and tell her that she will make a mighty fine clerk. She doesn't even want to participate and wonders why she was even asked to put down her top three choices when she didn't get any of them (I am actually kind of wondering that myself). I just want to help her get through another disappointment without too much drama.
Too much to ask for? How do I explain it to my daughter without some knowledge on how it all works? Did they tell the kids they would more than likely get one of their three choices? Did they make a mistake when filling out the job forms? Did I sound like a disappointed and frustrated parent? You betcha!

3.    Don’t get stuck looking at the problem from one point of view. Help your child see the problem from other vantage points – put them in the shoes of the one on the other side of the problem. This allows them to learn how to have more empathy and tolerance for others.

4.     Don’t show your child that you are depressed about their situation in order to seem supportive (this is a tough one for me – obviously). Children need to learn by example and they certainly don’t need the burden of your disappointment while dealing with their own. Talk it out, help them figure out why it happened and what can be done to resolve it or avoid it in the future.

5.     Don’t accept poor behavior due to the disappointment. Teach them how to manage those feelings without melting down or taking it out on those around them. Sometimes all they need is for you to validate their feelings.

If these things don’t work, there’s always a bottle of wine (for you, not your child!) because you are going to need it after you deal with talking them off the ledge. Lately, since I can’t seem to solve her school problems, I have gotten my daughter involved in activities that make her happy and where she can experience more victories than defeats. When your child is chronically disappointed, every small positive is a reason to celebrate with them and with yourself (with wine, after tuck-in)!

Stay tuned for a segment on when parents are disappointed in their children. Having teens breeds a whole new wave of disappointments that, as parents, we need to deal with.

#childdisappointment #disappointment #howtodealwithdisappointment

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