Whether it's trying out for a team, studying for a specific grade or even being turned down for a date, all teens are affected by disappointment at some point. And while you may wish to protect your teen from feelings of failure and disappointment, it's an important experience that can help your teen learn more about himself, his talents and how to achieve in the future. Check your expectations and help your teen get through a disappointment so he can move on to the next challenge.
Listen to your teen as he vents his feelings and has negative thoughts after a disappointment. Being quick to sweep the issue under the rug or brushing it off as "no big deal" can make your teen feel even worse and as though you don't care about his disappointment. Instead, use thoughtful language and validate his feelings, such as "You really wanted this, so I can see why you'd be so disappointed."
Empathize with your teen and share an experience you had with disappointment yourself. Your teen needs to know that you understand the way he feels, so sharing something from your own experience can help make that connection, whether it was missing a promotion at work or even reaching back into your past for a disappointment you had as a teen yourself.
Check your reaction and make sure you stay supportive and positive. If you've always wanted your teen to be a star quarterback and he doesn't make the squad, your own disappointment could create feelings of guilt in your teen, warns therapist Carl Pickhardt in an article for Psychology Today. Even if you're disappointed too, keep your language, facial expression and reaction positive so your teen isn't negatively affected by your reaction.
Offer other opportunities for your teen to try again. If he really wants to play soccer but didn't make the school team, there may be a community team that he can play for instead. He may have been turned down for a date to the dance, but he could have a get-together with friends at his house instead. Make sure your teen knows that disappointment doesn't mean the end of trying, but rather an open door to another avenue and experience.
Allow your teen to experience failure and disappointment. While it's tempting to step in and argue for a higher grade or try to get your teen on a team, failure actually gives your teen the time and experience to learn more about himself. Allow your teen the experience without stepping in and saving the day, otherwise you could be robbing him of the lessons that failure and disappointment can teach.
- Amy Sheinberg, Ph.D: Dealing with Disappointment
- Psychology Today: Adolescence, Parental Disappointment, and Parental Guilt
- LifeCoach Your Teens: Five Principles to Help Your Kids Thrive; Roger Cross
- BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images