Dealing with Disappointment

Today I am disappointed.  There’s no going around it.   I had made plans but viruses have their own minds and plans.   We were all packed to go visit friends for a few days but my gut was saying none of the kids were healthy enough to make the trip so guess who else was disappointed?

My kids were disappointed.

My husband was disappointed.

Our friends were disappointed.

Our friends kids were disappointed.

My first reaction was to write about why we get disappointed and how to avoid it in the future.

When I was a child my parents never told us what was happening in (especially the fun stuff) just in case plans changed.   We would find out that we were going to Wonderland once we got in the car and we were as close to going as possible.   They never told us because if it rained the park would close or not open so in order to avoid some very disappointed kids, they wouldn’t tell us.   They didn’t want to get our hopes up and then have to cancel.

We have taken the same parenting approach.   We never tell the kids we are planning to go to Wonderland until we’re on our way.   There are just way too many variables in a large family.   There’s also that pesky weather that can ruin our plans for outdoor fun.

I have seen friends do quite the opposite and they tell the kids weeks in advance of going somewhere fun only to have crying children when something comes up and changes the plan.

Even writing this I’m not sure there’s a right or wrong way to go about it.   Not telling the kids is easier.   They just keep going on like nothing happened and only the parents bear the weight of the disappointment and changing the plans.   Parents are more flexible in most cases so it seems like the easiest route.   Crying kids aren’t fun.   And the whole plan was for them to have fun but if we shelter them from all disappointments are we preparing them for life?   Do we need to?   Should they learn that there are many times in life we don’t get what we want or we have to be flexible and change plans?   Is there something to be said for teaching your kids that “rain” happens?  Or should they be sheltered from the pain of disappointment?   There’s plenty of time for them to learn about disappointment in life.

I am not sure if I have come to a decision at this point in my life.   What I know is how  my parents went about it and that I turned out okay if not more flexible and go with the flow than others around me.    Maybe I would be this way even if they constantly allowed disappointments to bombard me.   I will never know the answer to that but I do know that many people are not flexible.   There are some people who cannot seem to cope with disappointment and everyone seems to always be disappointing them.

Let me explain some different kinds of disappointment using some examples.  See if you have experienced any of these or can fit your disappointment into any of these types.

Example 1. A friend offers to drive me somewhere, I expect they will pick me up AND drive me home.  They call me an hour before and let me know they are sick and can’t come.   I may still be sad, let down, frazzled to find a new ride, or disappointed but not too much.   I would figure out a new plan and move on and then think about how I can offer help to my sick friend.

Example 2.  A friend offers me a ride, and they come to get me but leave the event but leave without giving me a ride home.   Naturally, I was expecting a ride home too but neither of us communicated our plans so I don’t really get too disappointed.   I am disappointed in my poor communication skills and figure out how to get home and laugh about the mix up later with my friend.

Example 3.  No one offers me a ride but I’m hoping someone picks me up.   Five minutes after the event starts, I start calling my friends and family and express how disappointed I am that they didn’t offer me a ride.

Example one is a great example of natural expectations and natural disappointment when there’s a change.

Example two is unmet expectations and disappointment with awareness of the problems.

Example three is a perfect example of disappointment due to unrealistic expectations.

The lessons we can all learn from these examples is that it’s important to assess your expectations.   Think about the last time you were disappointed.   Maybe it was yesterday, maybe it will be today.   Why were you disappointed?   Was it an unforeseeable change?   Was it something you expected someone else to do but they didn’t?

To avoid disappointment, try these tactics with yourself and your family.

1. Communicate your goals, hopes and desires.  No one can meet your expectations if they are not spoken or written.  If you are expecting your kids to know what chores you expect them to do, make a list.  Texting your lists, plans and ideas to older kids helps them to know what is expected and then they won’t already have other plans.

2. Think about or write out and assess what you are expecting.  Is it reasonable and attainable?  A friend or partner can help you see if you are expecting too much.   Help your children to determine if their goals, plans, lists are reasonable or are they expecting too much from others.   We talk a lot about expectations in our house.   Whenever someone is upset or disappointed, we ask if their expectation was reasonable or communicated to anyone other than their own head.

3. Practice being fluid.   Flexibility takes practice.   The next time something ruins your plans, try finding a silver lining to that rain cloud and finding something equally fun to do.   Teaching your kids this skill is very important too.  Verbalize that you are disjointed that the rain cancelled your plans for the park but spend the day doing a craft or go on an indoor adventure like a museum hunt, or indoor playground. Just the other day while on vacation, a big item on our to do list was cancelled due to freezing rain.   We knew we wouldn’t get another chance.  Our kids were moping around and we encouraged them to think of other fun plans.   We ended up going shopping for some fun games and going out for dinner and testing them out.   They griped a bit but ended up loving the games and dinner.

Disappointment is a part of life, how you cope with it, speaks volumes about your character.   Avoid it when you can but when it comes, teach your kids skills while they are young to deal with it gracefully.



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