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Sherry Shepherd's picture

“I didn’t make it!” How to Help your Child with Disappointment

For the next few minutes, think back to when you were in college, high school or middle school. Now, think about something you really loved or wanted to do …

You have worked so hard and you want to make the team, valedictorian, cheerleader, yearbook, captain, or maybe it is the play, the musical, the band, the fraternity, the sorority. You want it so bad you can taste it. You have trained, studied, worked, and practiced. This time you know that you are ready. You picture seeing your name on the roster, called out over the intercom, listed in program, in the cast, on the solo list.

The tryouts take place and the next day you get up to go to school to hear the results. You walk to the list with guarded excitement and hope. However, when you check it, your name is not there. It must be a mistake. Maybe you missed it. Your heart begins beating hard.  You think others are looking at you, but they are only searching for their own name. You start to perspire and feel a knot start turning in the pit of your stomach.

You step away and then go back over to check it again. You think, “It has to be there. It just does.”  You scour the list again for your name, but it is missing. Your best friends name is there. Even the person, who did not do as well as you did, somehow made the team, the cast, the position. How can this be? There has to be a mistake.

You feel the sting in your chest. You feel ashamed or embarrassed that you did not make it. Anger and injustice well up inside. You think, “They didn’t choose me. I worked so hard. It isn’t fair.” As the tears well up, you blink back the pain, “Why didn’t I make it? Why wasn’t I chosen?” “What’s wrong with me?” 

Disappointment floods over you, and at that very moment in time, it can feel like the end of the world. It can feel like you literally had the air knocked out of your lungs. You cannot breathe.

You may even feel as if you want to hide. You worry about what others will think of you. Do you remember a time like that?

As my mom told me and I have since told my kids, “Sweetheart, it stinks. It hurts. It does not seem fair. It does not seem right. However, it does not change your value. It does not change how much you are loved and cared about. It does not change how I see you. It does not change how God see’s you. You have a purpose. You will get through this and even though it feels terrible right now, it won’t always feel this bad.”

Unfortunately, loss and disappointment are a part of life. Until we join Jesus in heaven, we are going to have pain on earth. Part of that pain includes the pangs of hurt we feel with disappointment.

Disappointment comes in many forms because life and people are not perfect. So, what do we do to help our children handle it?

1.      First, we have to listen and acknowledge our child’s hurt and pain as Jesus does ours. Validate their feelings.

In John 10:27 New International Version (NIV) he tells us,

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

2.      Second, pray with your child. Let them know that sometimes we cannot see the whole picture. When we have to wait for something, it could be because we are being protected, or being prepared for something else.

Psalm 30:5 (NIV) says, 

…weeping may stay for the night,
    but rejoicing comes in the morning.

3.      Third, reassure your child and let them grieve the loss. Reassure them that even though this hurts, it is only temporary and it will pass. If they need to cry or go out and take a jog, or take a nap, let them have that time to grieve the loss in a healthy and safe way.

Psalm 27:14(NIV) says,

14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.

4.      Fourth, encourage them to keep going after their dream, if it is appropriate and safe. Think of ways together that would help them achieve it.  This may mean taking lessons, classes, hiring a tutor or even practicing more. If money is tight, ask a friend with an older child excelling in your child’s area of interest, if they would be willing to be a mentor.

Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

5.      Fifth, be a good role model when you experience disappointments.

Philippians 4:13 (NIV) says,

13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

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