How to Help Kids Deal with Disappointment

2020 has not been a great year for pretty much everyone on the planet, but for kids, it can be especially hard to be stuck at home and have so many events and activities in their lives cancelled or postponed — classes, programs, sports, playdates, birthdays, proms and so much more. Coping with disappointment can be a big challenge for kids (or anyone, really), so we’ve listed these tips to help.

Empathize with Their Feelings
It’s important to validate your kids' emotions and empathize with what they're going through. Listen to their feelings and respond with things like, "Yes, this is really unfortunate." Avoid compounding the negativity. As you discuss the things your kids are missing out on, try to put a positive spin on it. For example, encourage your kids to save up their excitement for all the things they will eventually get to do in the future.

Give Kids Reassurance
It’s also important to remind kids that this is only temporary. While things will likely be different as we learn to live with this virus, kids will, at some point, be out at their favourite attractions, playing in the park with friends and going back to school in the Fall. It’s likely difficult for young kids to picture life beyond today or a week from now, but have them focus on they want to do when this health crisis is gone, like playing baseball or other team sports they were involved in before.

Teach Self-Calming Skills
Emotions are running high as kids feel anxious and sad. Showing them how to calm down and manage their feelings is an essential tool in dealing with anxiety. Teaching kids a breathing technique to ‘refresh’ the brain will help them think more clearly. Demonstrate how to take a deep breath in and then out, like they're blowing out birthday candles or making bubbles. Blowing real bubbles is another excellent method to calm kids down.

Give Them Space
You shouldn’t expect your kids to get over their sadness, anger, and other feelings immediately so give them the time and space they need. Don't rush to always make them feel better and let them take it at their own pace. Give them permission to feel and express their emotions. Feeling disappointment is a natural part of life when things don’t go as expected.

Model Good Behavior
Letting your kids see your own disappointment over losses related to the coronavirus — and seeing you dealing with it in healthy ways — can help them develop their own skills at handling life's ups and downs. This can be a teaching moment and you can model to your kids. Talk about how you're experiencing your own disappointments, like scrapped vacation plans or work-related pressures without creating further anxiety. And, show them effective ways to handle negative emotions, such as talking about it, exercising to relieve stress, or finding a creative way to do something they still want to do — like having a virtual class or party with friends. You might even use examples from your own childhood to convey your understanding of the disappointment your child is feeling.

Tots Can Connect with a Stuffie
Talking to their favourite stuffed animal is another tip to help comfort younger kids. If they are close and connected to their stuffed animals, this can be a great reassurance for kids who are dealing with difficult feelings. Tell your kids, "Talk to your teddy about how sad you are."

Create a Gratitude Journal
This practice helps children focus and recognize the ‘good’ things that are happening in their lives, despite the current situation. Acknowledging the things that make them happy and being grateful is an important step to positive thinking. This simple activity leads to increased happiness, will boost your child's mood, and will have them appreciating the simple joys in life, yes even at time like this.

Find Time to Have Special Moments
While kids might be missing out on major milestones during this time, like birthdays, vacations and school performances, it doesn't mean you can't still celebrate and make lasting memories from home. A cozy family birthday party at home can actually end up being more memorable than the big bash you were planning. If kids still want to celebrate with a bigger event, let them know they can look forward to a gathering in the future. Provide kids with ideas and talk about plans they can look forward to and get excited about.

Redirect Focus
For kids who are super focused on negative feelings, it can be helpful to use distraction techniques such as a creating a fun diversion. Suggest a spontaneous game. Creative kids can draw a picture about how they're feeling. Other ideas include reading a funny book or watching a silly video, especially when it's close to bedtime, when you're trying to keep things positive before falling asleep.

Stay Connected
For younger children, missed events are a big part of their development, so make sure they stay connected with friends virtually. Parents can encourage kids to talk to their friends and classmates through video chat or phone calls.

Don't Underestimate the Power of Hugs
Close contact, like hugs, can go a long way to providing kids with comfort when they're faced with big disappointments. You can also encourage kids to hug their stuffies when they're feeling sad or anxious.

Stick With Your Normal Routine
In times of stress, encourage kids to keep up with their regular routine. That includes going to bed, eating meals and doing homework at scheduled times. Having a plan for the day is essential because kids thrive on predictability, and having structure is necessary during difficult times.

Remind kids that this is a unique situation and that it's been a big, overnight change for everyone. We are all struggling to make sense of life in this pandemic — but that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Things will get better — there will be a vaccine or a treatment eventually — and life will get better over time.

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