Disappointment is a part of life. Adults accept this fact. However, when parents see teens struggle with disappointment, it hurts twice as much. Parents hurt for their child, but they also struggle with their own desire to see the teen succeed. When you help your teen deal with disappointment, you not only get then through a critical part of life, but you also see her succeed in a crucial step towards adulthood.
The first step to helping your teen through disappointment is listening to the teen’s feelings and expectations. Seattle parenting expert, Elizabeth Crary suggests that parents often want to quickly jump in and fix the situation. Listening to the teen’s feelings may give you insight into his goals. For example, your teen may suffer disappointment when he doesn’t make the football team. Your desire to jump in and fix things may lead you to suggest a trainer. But if you listen to him, he may have wanted to play football to impress a girl or raise his social status.
Dr. Roni Cohen-Sandler, a clinical psychologist specializing in parenting, suggests that you empathize with your disappointed teen. Empathy and sympathy aren’t the same thing. When you sympathize, you feel sorry for your teen. But when you empathize you feel with your teen. You recognize what she is feeling and validate what she has shared. For example, if your teen shares that she is sad that she didn’t win a school election, you might say something like: “I can see how disappointed you are. You worked hard on the election and I know it was important to you.” When you empathize with your teen’s feelings, you are telling her that what she feels is important.
At its heart, disappointment comes when expectations fall short of reality. The Website Psych Central suggests that we can help teens learn how to handle disappointment by teaching them how to deal with their own expectations. Help teens to set realistic expectations by teaching them the difference between what he hopes for and what he expects. This helps him to identify what he does and does not have control over. For example, he may hope to win the lottery, but the odds are against that. He may expect to get a good grade on a test he studied for.
Give yourself and your teen time to get over the disappointment. But let your teen take the lead. Dr. Cohen-Sandler suggests that sometimes, teen shift gears suddenly, before the parent has fully grieved the loss. However, if your child continues to grieve over the disappointment loses sleep or suffers academically, seek professional help through your pediatrician or a counseling professional.