We all face disappointment--often the small disappointments build to a crescendo until we want to bargain with God, or step aside from our lives until things pick up.
Young children display their disappointment with bravado--howling in the grocery store after we gently remove the candy bar from their little fist, weeping crocodile tears over the toy that is smashed beyond repair by an angry playmate, or stomping their feet when it's time to end the game and go to bed.
As children grow older their reactions to disappointment change. A fifteen-year-old describes a looming regret, "I failed at my Bat Mitzvah and I'm disappointed in myself. I had prepared for over a year, my entire family was there and I freaked out and ran away. My friends and tutor came up to the Bimah and spoke the words with me and I got through it. I can't go back and change what happened, so I take it as a lesson--girl, keep yourself together."
Another teen told me that when he's disappointed he gets angry and frustrated but distracts himself by listening to music or by going online.
What do you do when disappointment hits you in the gut? Pause for a moment and think about your reactions.
A dear friend of mine heard yesterday that her daughter was not accepted to the college of her choice, a big disappointment. She says, "Well, the way we deal with disappointment is the way we learn to deal with life--my daughter is learning about life through this."
The following ideas are to help you help your child navigate a life sure to be filled with little annoying disappointments and hopefully very few vast regrets.
Disappointment can lead to doubt. When kids begin to doubt their magnificent abilities we can step in to remind them of past achievements and support them as they find their footing.
There is a valid reason for everything that happens. We might not be aware of it now, but when we trust in spirit to guide our lives it's easier to face disappointments knowing that perfect order is at work. Teach your children the simple rhyme, "There is not a spot where God is not." This chant can become a habit and help remind them that perfect order is at hand, regardless of any outcome.
When our hopes are not satisfied immediately, it's easy to become unhappy and slip into limited thinking. It's easy to give up. "I didn't get cast in the play, how stupid of me to ever dream of being an actor. I guess I should just forget about it." Teach your kids the powerful P's: persistence, perseverance, and patience.
Give your kids examples of others who faced disappointment but got up and tried again. Cut out articles from the paper and stick them on the fridge, tell stories of people you have known; share your own obstacles and how you've moved through them.
Catch yourself and your kids when you look for validation through other people or cultural applause because these barometers can lead to disappointment. Self-acceptance is what truly matters and that validation comes from within.
Don't deny your child his feelings. When he is disappointed, acknowledge that disappointment is a pretty rotten sensation. Naming a feeling helps us deal with it. I would prefer kids deal head on with their disappointments rather than check out by becoming passive media gerbils.
Vast Spiritual Beings
We limit ourselves by thinking we are simply bodies here to achieve. Again, this thinking only leads to disappointment because we are human and imperfect. Remind your children often that they are vast spiritual beings having a human experience and are much broader than their feelings. This knowing will help them to transcend disappointments.
Quiet the Mind
Kids are never too young to learn the power of stilling their minds. Try one of the guided meditations in my book, "10 Principles for Spiritual Parenting" or on my website. You might also consider signing your child up for a martial arts course such as T'ai chi or t'ai kwando or a yoga class as they teach kids the art of centering. Dropping down into the stillness of our beings is where we might find the voice of God--never a disappointment.
"Have no friends not equal to yourself."
"The advice of friends must be received with a judicious reserve; we must not give ourselves up to it and follow it blindly, whether right or wrong."