Your preschooler cries everyday when you drop her off at school, your 9-year-old just found his sneaker was chewed up by the dog, or your teen didn’t make the varsity squad and is crushed.
All of these situations are upsetting to your children, and may be to you as well. We all want to jump in and take the sting away for our children, to protect them from sadness and disappointment. However, when doing that we are not strengthening them and helping them grow, we are buffering them from the reality that there will be disappointments in life. As well, we are subtlety communicating that we don’t think they are strong enough to handle negative feelings. Here are 3 (of many) ways you can look at these opportunities as a way to build resilience.
Noticing when your children have been strong and reminding yourself that they are capable of handling tough situations will enable you to communicate that as hard as this is in the moment, that they are strong enough to get through. Also have faith in yourself that you can get through too. You can!
Remember the value of practice
If each time our children face disappointment we soften it or take on the feelings for them by spending an extra 10 minutes with the crying preschooler at drop off, immediately replacing the chewed shoe, or badmouthing the coach that didn’t put our kid on the team, we’re removing the opportunity for our children to experience the feeling and depend on themselves. Each experience is an opportunity to practice being disappointed and build the muscles to work it through.
Resist the urge to succumb to your feelings of guilt, anger, injustice, or sadness as you won’t be able to attend to your child. Focus on validating their feelings and their ability to handle them.
Given all this, what do you specifically do?
Give your preschooler a big hug. Say “I love you and I know you’re going to have fun. I’ll see you right here when school is over,” turn her over to the teacher, and walk away. Show up on time at pick up and acknowledge how brave she was to spend the whole time as school.
To your 9-year-old, say “Oh wow, Rocky did a number on your shoe, that’s so disappointing that it’s ruined. 😟 What other choices do you have to put on your feet today?” Give a hug.
To your teen, offer “I know you had your heart set on playing varsity this year, I’m sorry it didn’t turn out the way you pictured it. I’ve seen you handle disappointing things before, and I’m confident you’re going to handle this one too. I know it just hurts right now.” Give a hug, if he’ll let you.
With opportunity, practice, and support from you, your children will come to learn that things don’t always turn out the way we want, and we are strong enough, and creative enough, to navigate the disappointments. We have strong muscles.
If you’d like help more consistently empowering your children to handle their own challenges, book a 30 minute consult with me HERE.
Until next time remember, parenting matters.