At one stage or another, your child is going to be disappointed. For example, at the start of the new school year they may be separated from one or a few of their friends or not going to be in a class they want. Disappointment is a normal emotion and childhood is the perfect time to learn how to deal with it. Simply listening and letting your child know that it’s okay to be disappointed may feel like not doing much but is a powerful lesson.
Challenge unhelpful thoughts
Thoughts are simply thoughts but they can be so powerful. They influence our reactions to situations. Your job is to challenge those thoughts. If your child says something like “I am never going to make new friends in this class”, it can be unhelpful to say “yes, you will.” Instead, maybe ask them to tell you about a time when they have made friends before. If they can’t think of one, remind them. For example, they may have joined a sport team where they knew no one. Once again, remind them that it’s okay to be disappointed or even angry but challenge them to think differently about it, for example, “It may take some time but I will find someone to play with.”
With this new helpful thinking you can then help your child work out what they are going to do next. You do this by being a coach and helping them come up with a solution instead of telling them. As helpful people we naturally want to make everything better and take over. But remember the old saying, “Give a person a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a person to fish and you feed them for a lifetime”. You can do this by asking them Who, What, Where, When and How questions and then helping them along the way.
Create an environment for communication
Encourage your child to reflect
All of this takes a lot of learning and sometimes just like us, it can be one step forward, two steps back. So your job is to create a space for reflection, “what went well?” and “what could you do differently?” We all have busy lives so we need to make some time to talk and reflect. Sitting at a table for dinner, discussing on the way to or from after school activities and taking a walk together are just some of the ways.
Remember to focus on the good stuff to balance out our natural tendency to focus on the negative. You may ask your child to tell you what they like about school and what made them happy today.
It’s as easy as filling a blank page with all types of different patterns or setting up a still life of some glasses or fruit and challenging you and your child to draw. You could even do colouring in. Not only does it promote talking but it slows our breathing and we produce serotonin, one of the gang of happy drugs.
And seal this all off with lots of hugs which release “oxytocin” a drug which makes us happy.