Disappointments. We all face them, adults and children. I’ve had to ask the question since my son’s diagnosis with autism: “How can I, his mom, and his dad help our 8-year-old handle disappointments?”
According to a blog, “My Aspergers Child,” I was recently reading, as well as my experience with my son, I’d like to share the following tips on dealing with disappointment:
1. Allow your son to make mistakes, which often leaves kids frustrated. I can probably count on two hands how many dishes and cups and glasses have been broken. With mistakes, there are successes.
2. Be understanding. Your son may not get over the disappointment immediately. This doesn’t mean you are doing anything wrong, but not all kids bounce back at the same rate. Be patient and understanding and soon your son will grow to forget the disappointment itself, but your reaction to it and what he learned in the process will stay with him.
3. Give your son time and space to deal with his disappointment. Try to help your son see that this is a disappointment that may not be as serious as he thinks. Sometimes you will have to step back and direct your son to continue dealing with his disappointment in the privacy of his bedroom. After a reasonable time, check on your son — and usually you will find that he has calmed down and has put things into perspective.
I do sometimes give both him and Naomi a small cup of “calm” tea, chamomile tea, and/ or mint tea. When I give it to him, I tell him, “Here is your cup of calm!” Sometimes he many not be receptive, but there are days when he is.
4. Don’t try to fix it. This is not easy, but kids are often more resilient than we give them credit. Though children of all ages may be quick to dramatize their displeasure, most bounce right back.
5. Don’t try to save your son from disappointments. Many parents erroneously believe that, for kids, disappointment should be avoided at all costs. Everybody makes the team, everybody is included. There are several problems with this attempt to make everyone feel good about themselves. First of all, it isn’t fooling anyone. Telling someone they’ve done a great job when they clearly haven’t is not only insulting, but it tends to set a tone of low expectations. Self-esteem is built through mastery, not through pretense. Second, it isn’t grounded in reality. Giving a child false expectations about his abilities and skills is not only dishonest, but unethical. Lastly, letting children face the letdowns of life, however painful, is necessary for emotional growth. Children who haven’t had practice developing coping skills for disappointment fall apart later on when no one is standing there ready to rescue them. Though the pains of life can be heartbreaking at times, they are learning experiences that, when faced with the loving support of a faithful parent, help prepare children to deal with struggles in the future.
6. Listen, don’t talk. You’ll be tempted to start pointing out all the reasons why the situation is “not so bad,” but kids don’t function the same way grown-ups do. Logic plays very little part in soothing a disappointed child. Listen intently to what your son tells you about his thoughts and feelings.
Most of the time when I listen to my son, its usually if it’s something Naomi did to him — took away a toy or something else minute. After listening, I try to say something to get him to understand, and lastly, remind him that he has a friend in Jesus.
His sister and he are like two peas in a pod. 🙂 Other times they can be like night and day, but they are learning to get along, one day at a time.
7. Congratulate your son when he handles disappointments reasonably. Nothing encourages kids to face and deal with disappointments reasonably as much as moms/dads who display pride over their child’s actions. Kids love to hear parents say, “I’m so proud of you for not losing your temper” or “You did a good job understanding.” Words of support and encouragement each time a youngster makes a decision to deal with a disappointment can really help to turn inappropriate behavior around. Kids seldom tire of hearing that they handled a situation with good judgment. The desire for parental approval and praise is one of the chief motivational forces in a youngster’s life.
8. Offer personal experiences. You can even point out that, as an adult, you are still disappointed by things that happen to you.
I was close to my twin sister. Though Adam and Naomi are not twins, I often get asked if they are. So, I often think about my sister and any disappointments that I can share with them.
9. Offer perspective. Whatever the situation may be, you can find a way to help your son put it into the proper perspective without ever using the dreaded phrase, “It’s not so bad…” or “It could be worse.”
10. Be patient, then be a little more patient, and then have even more patience as your son figures out how the real world operates.
Here are some key questions that were mentioned in the blog I read, to help my son brainstorm ideas on how to resolve the problem himself:
- Are you going to try again?
- How big is the problem? It feels like a disaster. On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad is it?
- How can we make sure that this problem doesn’t mess up anything else in your life?
- How long do you want this disappointment to make you feel bad?
- How long will the disappointment last? A day, a week?
- How upset do you want to be about this now, given that is is going to feel better soon?
- Is there a part of this issue that you can control, change, or improve?
- Is there anything you would’ve done differently?
- What are some alternative things to say to yourself to counter the alarm messages going through your mind?
- What can you do now to make the situation better?
- What do you think went wrong?
- What is the worst part of it for you?
- When will it be time to move on? (Often times, the sooner people get going on Plan B, the sooner they start to feel better.)
This is key is for youngsters with Aspergers or high functioning autism to learn to distinguish between serious disappointments and trivial ones.
Disappointments are a part of everyone’s daily life, and the greatest one that I can think of for all of us who are Seventh-day Adventist is the day of the Great Disappointment in 1844, October 22.
As I pause to think of the disappointments of my life and ones that my children are facing, I live in the Hope knowing that…
There’s a land that is fairer than day,
And by faith we can see it afar;
For the Father waits over the way,
To prepare us a dwelling place there.
In the sweet by and by,
We shall meet on that beautiful shore;
In the sweet by and by,
We shall meet on the beautiful shore.
When there, we won’t have to experience disappointments and bitter tears anymore. SELAH!