There are so many things that have suddenly disappeared from kids’ lives: sports tournaments, birthday parties, school friends, playdates. How do we help them cope with the disappointment?
Great question! I know a few disappointed adults out here, as well. It is so hard to see our children in pain. The bright side, and we need to keep looking for the bright side during the COVID-19 crisis, is that it’s possible to respond in a way that helps kids weather the disappointments and also build resilience for life’s future difficulties.
When our child is upset about a cancelled birthday party, or not being able to see their best friend, it can be tempting to try to make them feel better. Maybe your teen is devastated by the realization that there might not be prom or grad in a few months. These are the realities we are all facing right now.
We might try to distract them with all the fun things they can do at home, or promise that when things get back to normal we’ll do something even better. We love our kids so much. We don’t want to see them suffer and we’re worried that they can’t handle all these disappointments.
Or maybe it’s the opposite. We might feel worried that they are making such a big deal about such small things. We might try to give them some perspective: At least they have food to eat, Netflix, a roof over their head. Stop whining!
These reactions are completely understandable. But I have a different approach for you.
When your child is upset or disappointed, acknowledge their feelings and empathize with how hard this is. You can say, “Of course you’re disappointed. Anyone would be. I’m so sorry that this is happening, sweetie.” And be quiet. Be with them in their sadness. You can’t fix it, but you know that they can handle it. Take comfort that today’s disappointments build resilience. With your help, they will learn that they can handle anything.
Have a question? Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sarah Rosensweet is a peaceful parenting coach and parenting advice columnist for Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper. She lives in Toronto with her husband and three big kids (ages 13, 16, and 19). Sarah teaches parents a non-punitive, connection-based approach that uses firm limits with lots of empathy. Enjoy your kids again! Find her at sarahrosensweet.com