Families are facing unprecedented times, as we are all staying home to stay safe. These big changes can cause a great deal of disappointment for kids who are faced with the cancellation of sports, classes, playdates, birthdays and so much more. Coping with being disappointed can be a challenge for young folks (or anyone, really), so we’ve enlisted a few experts to offer tips to help kids deal with disappointment. Keep reading to see what they had to say.
Empathize with Their Feelings
Doctoral level Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor Melissa Marote says that first and foremost, it's essential to validate your kids' feelings; really empathize with what they're going through. Listen to their feelings and respond with things like, "Yes, this is really unfortunate." You should avoid compounding the negativity, however. As you discuss the things your kids are missing out on, Marote explains, try to put a positive spin on it. For example, encourage your kids to save up their excitement for all the things they will eventually get to do in the future.
Give Kids Reassurance
Child development expert and creator of The Moodsters, Denise Daniels, RN, MS, tells us that it's important to remind kids that this is only temporary. Before they know it, they will be out at their favorite restaurants, spending time with friends and more. It might be hard for young kids to picture life beyond the current day or week, but still, Daniels suggests having kids make a list of things they want to do when the coronavirus is gone, like play soccer or other team sports they were involved in before.
Teach Self-Calming Skills
Emotions can run high when kids are anxious and sad. Teaching kids how to calm down and manage their feelings is an essential tool in how to deal with anxiety. Marote suggests giving kids a breathing technique to oxygenate the brain and help kids think more clearly. Show your kids how to take a deep breath in and then blow out, like they're blowing out birthday candles or making bubbles. Blowing real bubbles is another excellent method, says Marote.
Talking to a stuffed animal is another tip Marote suggests. Kids are so close and connected to their stuffed animals, which makes them a great comfort for kids who are dealing with hard feelings. Tell your kids, "Talk to your teddy bear about how sad you are."
Find Time to Have Special Moments
Your kids might be missing out on major milestones during this time, like birthdays, vacations and school performances. That doesn't mean you can't still celebrate and make lasting memories. A cozy family birthday party at home can actually end up being more memorable than the big bash you were planning.
If kids still want to celebrate with big events, however, Daniels suggests letting kids know that you will create a time for these gatherings in the future. Discuss as a family what type of vacation you hope to go on next, or if it was a missed birthday party, plan a half birthday party six months out from now, Daniels says. Provide kids with ideas and talk about plans they can look forward to and get excited about.
For kids that become very hyper-focused on negative feelings, it can be helpful to use distraction techniques, says Marote. Suggest an impromptu game of "I, Spy," or get creative asking kids to draw a picture about how they're feeling. Other ideas include reading a funny book or watching a silly video, especially when it's close to bedtime, and you're trying to keep things positive before falling asleep.
For younger children, Daniels explains, these missed events are a big chunk of their development, "so we want to make sure that they can stay connected with friends—even though all of their activities like sports, birthday parties and playdates have been canceled." Parents can encourage kids to talk to their friends and classmates through video chat or phone calls. Kids should also chat with their neighbors (or whoever they usually play with) to see how they're doing and what they're up to.
Don't Underestimate the Power of Hugs
Close contact, like hugs, can go a long way to providing kids with comfort when they're faced with big disappointments. Marote also suggests encouraging kids to hug their stuffies when they're feeling sad or anxious.
Stick with Your Normal Routine
Daniels says, in times of stress, encourage kids to keep regular times of going to bed, eating meals and doing homework. Having a plan for the day is essential because kids thrive on predictability, so having structure is necessary for a time that is so fluid.
Online Resources Can Help
There are many free tools on STEM sites and educational platforms for kids that provide information and strategies to utilize during these times. "I have recently partnered with Scholastic Publishing and the Yale Child Study Center, Collaborative for Child Resilience, to create First Aid for Families: Helping Kids Cope During the Corona Pandemic," says Daniels. "This is a free public service to help families which will be available on April 10th, at Scholastic.com."