Friday, July 30, 2010

Deal with Disappointment

Deal with Disappointment



It’s happened. Maybe you were afraid of this. Or, maybe it blindsided you but… it’s happened. Your daughter didn't make the dance team. Your son was passed over for the scholarship. Your child didn’t get the part or solo or moment in the program for which he/she worked so hard.

Now what? Your son is hurting. Your daughter comes to you crying. They may look to you to make it all better.



DO:
Parent your child through this setback and support them in becoming a more resilient and confident human being. When your child is faced with a letdown, you have a great opportunity to encourage your son or daughter to face and rise above the obstacles that come their way. It may not feel like a gift but it is.

DON’T:
Fix it. As a parent, your first instinct may be to try. However, just as it is a parent’s role to help his baby become proficient in feeding himself, assist her preschooler in learning to use a potty, and teach her grade-school child to tie his shoelaces, it is a parent’s often unhappy duty to give a blossoming young adult the tools they need to cope with disappointment.

That’s Life                                                                                                       Disappointment can actually be good for kids -- especially when you teach them how to bounce backWhether it's a trip to the playground that gets ruined by rain or there are no more chocolate sprinkles at the ice cream shop, life is full of little and big disappointments. And as much as we'd like to spare our kids from letdowns, we can't -- and that's a good thing. "When children learn at an early age that they have the tools to get over a disappointing situation, they'll be able to rely on that throughout childhood and even as adults,"."If you bend over backwards to shield them from disappointment, you're keeping them from developing some important skills."                                                                
                                                                                                                                     That's not to say you shouldn't lend a hand. "If you help a child learn to ask for realistic support, lean on others, communicate well, and stay optimistic, you're assisting that child to handle what life throws at him". The most effective approach: Tailor your tactics to how your child currently reacts when a curveball comes his way.


This is meant for parents of young children. However, as I researched this issue across age groups, the methods for helping children deal with disappointment listed in the article, were corroborated. I have adapted many of them to fit the situation your pre-teen or teen dancer may be facing.

A. Gauge Your Child’s Resiliency
Does your child tend to take things personally? Does she usually have a positive outlook?Now take this brief resilience test about your child.It has a handy 5-question quiz that will help you place your child’s resiliency.

Does She/He
1. Bounce back when things go wrong? Yes 2 No 0
2. Rationalise disappointment and rejection rather than take it personally? Yes 2 No 0
3. Take a positive view when challenges come his way? Yes 2 No 0
4. Pat himself on the back when he does something well? Yes 2 No 0
5. Let little things spill over and spoil other parts of his life. Yes 0 No 2

Score:
10: A resilient child. He bounces back up when things don't go his way.
6-8: A hardy soul.
0-4: Probably too hard on himself. Need some help to lighten the load.

At this time, it may also be a good idea to make a mental note about how YOU feel about your child’s setback.As the above article so rightly states: “Your attitude can make a huge difference to how a child reacts. If you see rejection or disappointments as problems then your child will be hamstrung by this view.”   

B. Tailor Your Tactics
When it is a BIG Deal

1. Validate the emotions.
“I know you are disappointed. It’s okay. I would be too.”

2. Help them recognize what can and cannot be changed.
What can be changed, of course, are the things regarding self, including one’s attitude. What cannot be changed are the actions and decisions of others. Despite hard work and determination and talent sometimes you just don’t get what your heart desires. It is a hard truth, but one we all learn one way or another. The difference in people is how they respond to that truth. Those that move on and continue to work hard are the ones that fulfill the adage that “if you work hard or set your mind to something, you can
be anything you want to be.”

3. Redirect her attention toward something in which she is (or is likely to be) successful.
She will likely see through empty or untrue sentiments about why she was unsuccessful or how she was wronged. No matter how small, a real boost to the ego will be much more effective. What comes easily to her that doesn’t for everyone? What has she been recognized for in the past? What activity might be more suited for her qualities and talents?  

4. Don’t punish or belittle her negative reaction.
After all, everyone needs to let it out sometimes.

5. Offer choices or alternatives
Help her realize that though she didn’t make the team or get the part she wanted, that she still gets to dance. She has the freedom to take some extra classes elsewhere, or in another style, or during a summer workshop. These are things that may improve her chances next time but, more importantly, they will strengthen, improve, and challenge her. Alternatively, she may have time to spend on favorite activities or pursue other interests outside of dance. Ask what she wants to do now. How does she want to proceed from here? What can be most disruptive about disappointment is the feeling of having no control over a situation. Choice can help your child regain that feeling of having a say.

6. Put it in perspective 
Volunteer at a hospital, help her organize a dance performance at a nursing home, work together at a soup kitchen, walk for charity. Find or do something that helps your child recognize how fortunate they are and reduces her “big deal” to its proportional size in the scheme of things.

7. Let her solve it on her own.
Once again, resist trying to fix things. Even if she wants you to come to her rescue, resist the urge to pacify her hurt by taking action or dwelling upon things that cannot be changed (a Guru’s decision, the reality of another child’s skills or talent, the criteria for recognition by another…). This is not easy but children are often more resilient than we give them credit. Though kids of all ages may be quick to dramatize their displeasure, many bounce right back. Look carefully at your child for cues, don’t bring up their disappointment if, by the next day, all seems right with the world again. Accept that your child may have recovered more quickly than you have!   

Your good example will make a world of difference   
What you say: “I’m sorry you didn’t get 1st place at the competition. What did the 1st place team do well? What do you think you’ll work on for next time?” vs. “I can’t believe you didn’t win! You were the best dancer there! The judges are clueless.” or “Next time you need to point your toes. Your Dance Steps were the worst I've ever seen you do. What were you thinking?’

What you did: Share your experiences with disappointment, what you learned from them, where failures led you, how you felt and what you did to overcome.

What you do: How do you react when you face disappointment or failure or frustration? Do you throw a tantrum at the checkout when the clerk makes a mistake? Do you gripe about your boss when you don’t get a promotion? Do you quit when the going gets rough? What message does this send to your child?

When to step in  
 Is there a time when you should step in to solve something for your child? My short answer is almost never   

 If you feel like you absolutely must act on his/her behalf, you may want to know How To Discuss Problems With Your Guru and Be Heard.When it comes to decisions about roles or teams, however, it is important to realize that work ethic and even abilities are not the sole criteria from which gurus cast their shows or teams. You may disagree with their specifications but it is within their right to select and judge based upon a standard of their choosing. You might approach them with a desire to know and understand their process but demanding they defend a decision does not put you or your child at an advantage. (How or under what circumstances would you demand this of a prospective employer that passed you over for a job? What about your current employer if you were not selected for promotion?) When your son/daughter receives a “no thank you,” your goal is to gain understanding so that you might help your child cope with the decision. The guru will see through attempts of getting him on the team or somehow winning her that role if that is really your ambition and you’ll hit a roadblock if it is.

When hard work doesn’t pay off
(I’ll repeat) Occasionally, despite hard work and determination one does not always get what their heart desires. It is a hard truth, but one we all learn one way or another. The difference in people is how they respond to that truth. You and your child both must accept this and look for the positive in every disappointment.

In addition, when it comes to hard work, attitude, or any other virtue, what a person deserves is not always what he will get. Thank goodness I don’t always get what I deserve because sometimes I don’t deserve what I get!

Final Thought: What do you want to be?
It is sometimes easy to confuse our accomplishments and awards with who we are. In our culture we place a lot of emphasis on the achievements for which a person has been recognized – she is a two-time Olympic medalist; he is a famous actor who has won numerous stage and screen awards. These things say little of who a person really is. In addition, these recognitions only look back never forward.

Who is this person becoming? In children especially, where one is going should matter a whole lot more than where one has been. Missions accomplished and tasks/goals completed are how we develop self-confidence in our abilities, however, we are not defined by our achievements. In fact, often we are defined more by our failures. It is despite and sometimes because of obstacles or disappointments that we become a dancer, a doctor, or something completely opposite but all the more right than whatever it is we want (or wanted) to be.

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