Archive for January, 2011

The Upside of Feeling Down

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011


Most of us have good and bad days and we know that ups and downs are a normal part of life, but how do we help our kids learn that?  What are your tips for helping a child deal with a tough day or a team loss?

The people who say, “You win some, you lose some,” almost never have a disappointed child clinging to their leg.  We all want our kids to enjoy cheering for their favorite team and winning a big game themselves.  Playing on a team can teach them about perseverance, commitment and working together: all great life skills, not to mention a great way to have fun.  The thing is, what makes a game interesting and what builds the most excitement is the possibility that the team we love might lose.  As parents, it’s natural to want to protect our kids from disappointment, but as adults we know that learning to deal with disappointment in a healthy and constructive way can be the difference between resilience and despondence.

So, what’s a family to do?  In a couple of weeks we will enjoy our Super Bowl parties and get together to watch our favorites battle it out for the ultimate prize.  Then there’s March Madness with Opening Day fast on its heels.   At every game in the history of the world there is always the same ending.  Only one team wins.  No surprise there for us, but for a child who has banners in his or her room, sleeps in the team jersey and cares more about their favorite team than just about anything else, a loss can be devastating.

Kids are just learning that a loss is one more step on the road to the next win.  They are just developing the perspective to know there is always next week or even next year.  So, what do we say to the pair of sad eyes that just lost the heartbreaker of the season?  What do we do to help them gain perspective and find their resilience?  How do we keep them believing in the potential of their team and themselves?

My personal favorite is to remind my kids that when they play a game, or go to a sporting event, at least half of the people involved get to enjoy a win and the other half of the people involved have to deal with the loss.  Half the crowd goes home disappointed, it’s normal, it’s predictable and if you are going to participate in sports, or even in life for that matter, it’s survivable.  It’s just not possible to become a strong person with the ability to endure and succeed in tough times, (like during a recession, for example), without experiencing some disappointment.  It’s how we learn to bounce back and bouncing back can be the most important skill any of us can ever have. It’s a skill we know we need and that we know our kids must have as well.

Learning that loss, mistakes or even failure is common and can be overcome helps to make these inevitable parts of life less scary and more manageable.   With the experience of losing and trying again, we learn how to succeed and as long as we don’t give up, we can still prevail.

I recently heard the term “teacup”  child. It’s an extension of the “helicopter” parent we have all heard about, who hovers over every minutia of their child’s life.  More of a pet than a person, these parents over protect their child from any and every disappointment and from even the risk of discomfort, let alone pain.

At first blush, who among us doesn’t want to protect our kids from heartbreak?  The only problem is that life doesn’t work that way forever and eventually, when these kids have to face their first crisis, they are so utterly unprepared that they fall to pieces.  No one wants that.   Let’s prepare them for life and show them we believe in their strength in easy and safe ways, so that in times of trouble, they have a history of successes to look back on.  Better to learn to manage stress and disappointment over a lost game, than to be overwhelmed by a true crisis.

So, let me know what you think and your best tips for helping the kids you love learn to bounce back from disappointments and become even stronger than before.

Remember to keep your face to the sun and all shadows will fall behind,