Frank Schofield, superintendent, Logan City School District

As the Dread Pirate Roberts said in The Princess Bride, “Get used to disappointment.” Regardless of the number of successes we experience in our lives, disappointments are inevitable companions for children. Disappointments can be tough to handle, whether it’s not making the sports team, receiving a lower grade than expected, or not being invited to a friend’s party. However, they also present valuable opportunities for growth and resilience. As parents better understand how to help children navigate moments of disappointment, we can help them develop attitudes and skills that will allow them to manage the natural ups and downs that life brings, setting our children up for healthier, more successful lives. Some approaches parents can take at home to help children develop the resilience that allows them to manage disappointment include the following:

HELP CHILDREN UNDERSTAND DISAPPOINTMENT

Disappointment is a natural response to unmet expectations or desires. For children, it can trigger feelings of sadness, frustration, or even anger. However, it’s essential for parents to normalize these emotions and teach children that experiencing disappointment is an expected and appropriate part of life. According to Dr. Carol Dweck, a leading expert in the field of motivation and personality psychology, helping children perceive disappointment as a natural response can significantly improve their ability to bounce back from setbacks.

PROMOTE A GROWTH MINDSET

Dr. Dweck’s research on mindset theory emphasizes the importance of cultivating a growth mindset in children. A growth mindset teaches children that their abilities can be developed through effort and perseverance. By praising their efforts rather than innate traits, parents can help children see disappointments as opportunities for learning and improvement. For instance, instead of saying, “You’re not good at math,” parents can say, “You’re working hard to understand math, and that’s what counts.”

ENCOURAGE EMOTIONAL EXPRESSION

Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, a pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine, stresses the significance of emotional expression in building resilience. Encourage children to talk about their feelings openly without judgment. Create a safe space where they can express their disappointments without fear of criticism. Validate their emotions by saying things like, “It’s OK to feel upset. Disappointments can be tough, but we’re here for you.”

TEACH COPING STRATEGIES

Help children develop healthy coping strategies to manage disappointment constructively. Encourage activities such as journaling, drawing, or physical exercise, which can serve as outlets for their emotions. Dr. Ginsburg suggests teaching children the “3 Cs” — competence, confidence, and connection. By focusing on building competence in various areas, fostering confidence in their abilities, and nurturing meaningful connections with others, children can develop resilience in the face of disappointment.

MODEL RESILIENT BEHAVIOR

Parents serve as powerful role models for their children. Demonstrating resilience in our own lives can teach children valuable lessons about overcoming setbacks. Parents can share stories of times when they have faced disappointment and how they managed to bounce back. Emphasize the importance of perseverance, adaptability, and optimism in navigating life’s challenges. By witnessing resilient behavior firsthand, children learn that setbacks are temporary and can be overcome with determination and resilience.

PROVIDE PERSPECTIVE

Help children gain perspective on disappointments by reframing them as learning experiences. Encourage them to reflect on what they can learn from the situation and how they can grow stronger as a result. Dr. Dweck emphasizes the power of “yet” — reminding children that they may not have achieved their goals yet, but with effort and perseverance, they can eventually get there. By shifting the focus from failure to growth, parents can instill a sense of optimism and resilience in their children.

Navigating disappointment is an essential skill for children to develop as they grow and encounter the ups and downs of life, and parents can play a crucial role in teaching children healthy strategies for managing disappointment. As children learn that disappointment is normal, and we show them how to work through frustrating situations, our children will be better prepared to successfully manage the variety of unexpected challenges they will face throughout their lives, becoming stronger, more resilient, and happier adults.