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March 8, 2021 Helping Youth Work Through Disappointment

NDSU Morton County: Helping Youth Work through Disappointment

By Karla Meikle, 4-H Youth Development Extension Agent

NDSU Extension

Recently I had a conversation with some colleagues about how youth handle disappointment, more importantly, how parents help youth handle disappointment.  I’m not going to sugar coat it, it’s not easy.  But in life, disappointment can be found everywhere and it can be hard to understand whether you are 8 or 80.  The difference between 8 and 80 is how quickly we rebound from disappointment. The younger we are, it is harder to understand, may involve lots of tears and even being upset. 

During the pandemic, we all faced disappointment in some manner.  Cancelled events, postponed shows or scaled back activities.  Nothing seemed to look like what it had always had.  In life we have disappointment when we can’t attend an event we want to go to, we may not get that job we applied for or we may be disappointed that the weather didn’t allow us to enjoy our day off. 

As adults we need to be prepared to work with youth through the emotion of disappointment.  4-H Youth Development education creates supportive learning environments for all youth and adults to reach their full potential as capable, competent and caring citizens.

In an article called Parents can help youth develop sportsmanship; Dr. Bradford Strand of North Dakota State University suggests the following five actions for parents to help their youth with this developmental area:

  • Keep Encouragement Positive:

Have you ever heard of the statement, for everyone one corrective remark, there should be three or four encouraging remarks.  Adults should remember that their belief in what is the “right” instead of just letting youth enjoy the activity and not focus on criticism.  Adults should focus on encouragement and positive statements so that when disappointment occurs, children have the self-confidence to handle it.

  • Remember to Laugh:

Adults need to prevent children from placing too much pressure on themselves and laugh!  It is unfortunate, but adults that have a level of seriousness often don’t realize that is transferred to youth.

  • Step into their shoes:

Let kids be kids!  They are not a small adult.  Winning and losing doesn’t matter, it’s about youth developing the skills to learn how to handle mistakes, pain, fear and disappointment surrounded by caring adults.

  • Notice and praise progress:

Adults should notice the progress in youth and call attention to the successes.  Youth often focus on their failures and adults need to reinforce supportive opportunities.

  • Show excitement:

All adults should be enthusiastic in their encouragement and calm in their corrections. Make a big deal when giving encouragement, our kids deserve it!  Remain calm when working through mistakes and making corrections.  This shows youth how to use coping skills, thus being less afraid of making mistakes.

As adults work through difficult emotions like disappointment, they can also recognize the life skills youth can gain by experiencing this emotion.  The Targeting Life Skills Model is an example of life skills youth can gain.  Critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making, learning and resiliency are all skills learned through disappointment. 

NDSU Morton County Extension, March 5, 2021

Source: Karla Meikle, 701-667-3340, karla.meikle@ndsu.edu

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