Disappointment always hurts. And it’s unavoidable in this world. Whether it’s blowing an audition, failing a spelling test, or not being invited to a friend’s birthday party, at some point in your child’s life, she’s going to be disappointed. Our kids need to be taught how to respond.
Here are some of the not-so-good responses I’ve either tried or witnessed:
Not-so-good response 1: Say “Toughen up!” and ignore the pain. This response will come back to bite you later. When we don’t deal with wounds, they have a tendency to get infected or heal improperly, leaving us more susceptible to further trauma. Worse yet, a child can potentially start believing lies about herself, like “I’m not good enough,” if we don’t talk it through, planting seeds for low self-esteem.
Not so good response 2: Tell your kid why she did or didn’t deserve it. Come up with every reason in the book for why it happened. “That teacher plays favorites.” “They have a prejudice against…” “It was unreasonably difficult.” “You weren’t at your best because you had a sniffle.” These excuses may be partially or entirely accurate, but they are not very helpful.
Not-so-good response 3: Dwell on it for days, weeks, or months. Feel sorry for yourselves long-term. When we let bitterness grow unchecked, it can take over.
Not-so-good response 4: Disassociate with anyone who did better, won the contest, or made the team. Drop friends. Change schools. None of these choices end well! Let’s look at some Godly ways to handle disappointment.
7 Tips to Deal with Disappointment:
1. Cry out to God. Express your sadness and give it to him. He longs to comfort you and hold you in his arms.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” (Matthew 11:28).
2. Give yourself space to grieve the loss. Depending on the intensity of your feelings, this might be five minutes, a day, or a longer amount of time. In our house, we set a time limit for the “pity party,” during which we might eat chocolate, cry, kick and scream, or mope. At the end of the agreed-upon amount of time, the pity party ends…and we try to move on.
“Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow,” (Jeremiah 31:13).
3. Pray about your attitude. Refuse to let jealousy or bitterness dwell in your heart. Without God’s intervention, our hearts would be a great big mess of unforgiveness and resentment, but God is in the healing business.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come,” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
4. List a bunch of things you’re thankful for and think about those things.
“Be joyful always; pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus,” (1 Thessalonians 5:16)
5. Congratulate the winners…even if you don’t feel like it.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,” (Hebrews 10:24)
6. Take a look at what you could do better in the future. Maybe it had nothing to do with you, but maybe it did. Admit your weaknesses so you can work on them. If you don’t know what you could do better, seek out a wise person for advice.
“Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise,” (Proverbs 19:20)
7. Accept the disappointment as part of God’s overall plan for your life. Learn from it and look for his purpose.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future, (Jeremiah 29:11).
As parents, we are call to lead by example. When our kids see the new way God is helping us cope with disappointment, they will follow us.
Pray… Lord, I am sorry for the times when I’ve chosen jealousy or excuses. Thank you for giving my kids and me disappointments that teach us, guide us, and equip us. Thank you for making all things new and giving us hope. Work on our hearts and attitudes. Help us deal with disappointment and show your love to everyone.