- Help your child deal with the disappointment so it doesn’t turn into discouragement. Disappointments are a normal part of life. We will all face them and must learn to process them in a healthy way so that discouragement doesn’t set in. It’s much easier to deal with a singular setback or even string of disappointing events than it is to overcome discouragement once it has set in. (see Habakkuk 3:17-19)
- Demonstrate to your child how to face disappointment with grace. Tell them when you are disappointed…because you didn’t get the raise you hoped for, you missed an outing because you were ill, or you were left off of an invitation list. But then use that opportunity to teach them about God’s faithfulness. Show them your hurt, but then allow them to see how God’s grace heals your hurt.
- Resist the urge to fix your child’s situation. Our own hurt over a child’s loss can prompt us to desire to fix the problem so the child will once again be happy. However, our attempt at fixing a child’s disappointment rarely resolves things wholly. Instead we risk hurting others, losing our own integrity, and offending those in authority. Plus, we send our child a false message of entitlement and easy fixes, in such cases. We teach them that things should never go wrong for them and if they do, “someone” needs to fix it. Good parents don’t set their children up for lifelong heartache with such faulty thinking.
- Experience the appropriate emotions with your child. Don’t brush off their hurt out of embarrassment or frustration, or in an attempt to force healing too soon. Instead demonstrate your own grief over their disappointment. Commiserate with them appropriately. Then, if they default to blame, resentment, bitterness, or criticism toward others, you have earned the ability to gently correct those attitudes while still acknowledging their pain.
- Pray a simple prayer with your child for God’s healing grace. Resist the temptation to preach to your child through the prayer, however. Keep it short and to the point. Ask God to heal their broken heart and to increase their wisdom through the disappointing situation. Then say amen. They can’t yet understand how God’s sovereignty and love go hand in hand, so don’t even go there. Just let them know He cares and He is the one who can heal the hurt.
Do you have other ideas for helping your children face disappointments with grace? It’s a big job, being a parent. We’d love to know how you handle the emotions and struggles of a child’s disappointment.