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How to Help Your Kids Through COVID-19 Related Disappointments

Dealing with a disappointment is very tough for kids from toddlers to teens. During the coronavirus, it can be particularly hard for kids to face disappointments caused by the coronavirus. Kids are now facing the simple disappointments of canceled play dates, to missing out on major life events such as proms and graduations.

How can you help them to cope with these COVID-19 related letdowns?

The experts say that the place to start is with understanding the nature of disappointment and why your kids may be feeling the way that they are. Kids, like all of us, have their own desires, goals, and wishes. Just like adults, teens, in particular, may have been planning ahead for weeks or months for a school play, or another big event, only to have their big plans dashed by the coronavirus outbreak.

Disappointment is only natural when these kinds of goals are not met and the desires are not fulfilled. Inasmuch as we all have unmet goals and wishes, disappointment is an unavoidable part of life. No life is without disappointment and its cousins, heartbreak, despair, regret, and discouragement. The Dalai Lama noted that the source of all human suffering is failed expectations. So, if disappointments and setbacks cannot be avoided, the best thing you can do is find ways to accept them and move on.

This can be especially hard right now when it seems so unfair that things are canceled because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Take for example the very real scenario that many parents of teens are dealing with right now – canceled high school graduations.

The level of disappointment experienced is related to a number of factors. Those include the level of hope and expectation, which is high in this case; the desirability of the event – also very high since most teens really look forward to this; and the likelihood of the event. What senior who is on track to graduate doesn’t expect a graduation ceremony?

In addition, the amount of effort put into accomplishing a goal – typically around four years’ worth of effort in this instance – also contributes to disappointment when it’s not achieved – or not celebrated, in this case, with a graduation ceremony.

These factors should be considered when determining how to help your kids deal with disappointment. In regards to the example of the canceled graduation ceremony, a place to begin is acknowledging that your teen has a very good reason to feel disappointed. We can start by empathizing with our kids’ feelings and validating those. Give your teen a space to talk through any thoughts and feelings related to this.

A second step would be to consider other ways in which their accomplishment can be celebrated. To be sure, this would be different than expected, but it doesn’t have to be less.

If it is other events – big or small – that your kid was looking forward to, ask yourself, can the celebration or event be put off until the future? Can the event be “marked” in a different way?

We may all be experiencing the disappointment of missing out on things we were looking forward to that had to be canceled because of the pandemic. One important thing to keep in mind, and to confer to your kids, is that these things were beyond anyone’s control.

This is a valuable life lesson for your kids. You can try your best to plan for every contingency, but it’s important to still accept that not all outcomes in life are under our control.

Our lives don’t always move ahead in the manner we plan, and certainly not in the timeframe we expect. Patience, hope, flexibility, and tenacity come from coping with adversity and managing disappointment.

Managing disappointment and dealing with loss are stepping stones toward resilience, and being able to handle whatever life may throw at you.

Finally, it does no good to dwell on feelings of disappointment, like that famous song from “Frozen” says… “Let it Go.” Focus on what lies ahead. Help kids redirect their energy toward new goals, plans, and aspirations. Help them to learn from the disappointment. Mark the event in a new and different way, and work toward a better, brighter future.


Have your kids had to deal with the disappointment of the cancellation of graduation or another major life event? How did you deal with it? Please reply using the comments below.


About Cynthia Lechan-Goodman

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