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Often parents try to smooth away life's rough edges in the hopes of keeping disappointment at bay... Children with no experience solving life's little setbacks have a much harder time when they're faced with the big ones. Lydia Waller, Head

The way in which children react to their disappointment can decrease or increase the likelihood of more failure and disappointment. Children who do not know how to cope with disappointment may react by reducing their effort, giving up more easily, or quitting altogether. In turn, this reaction can cause them to feel incompetent and inadequate, which, if persistent, will lower their self-esteem and likely prevent them from achieving their future goals.

Though some disappointment following perceived failure is normal, children who are hit hard by disappointment mope around the house, look demoralised, and feel sorry for themselves for far longer than they should.

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Feel it

Sometimes parents try to ‘protect’ their children from disappointment, but this can do more harm than good. Placating children doesn’t allow them to understand what caused the disappointment, nor does it help them to identify for themselves how not to feel disappointed in the future.

Children need to sit with their disappointment and ask:

  • Why do I feel so bad?
  • What can I do to get over feeling this way?
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Believe in them

Pacifying your child may inadvertently tell them that you don’t think that they are capable of handling and overcoming the setback. Your reaction is so important; it is crucial for parents to demonstrate belief in their child’s abilities to get over future obstacles.

Parents can teach  children to see stumbling blocks as opportunities to improve and grow, by offering a different perspective – I know it feels bad right now, but what can you learn from it?

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Childhood disappointment is essential training for adulthood. If parents step in whenever disappointment threatens, you're setting children up to run a marathon without ever letting them train for it. Kylie McGregor, Head of Pre-Prep

Some suggestions on how to respond to children's disappointment

  • Allow children to feel disappointment about the setback
  • Don’t ‘spin’ the situation to make your child feel better
  • Offer a healthy perspective on disappointment
  • Support your child, but don’t give them a consolation prize
  • Help your child find ways to surmount the causes of their disappointment
  • Tell your children that they will survive these disappointments and will achieve their goals if they keep trying hard
  • Make sure they know you love them regardless of their perceived successes or failures.