I remember as a child going on long road trips to visit my grandparents. There were no TV’s in the back of the seats, no iPads to entertain us, or phones to play games on. If we were lucky, we’d have a Gameboy. How we kept occupied on those 5-hour long car rides was crazy-dangerous: we’d remove the middle seat of our Plymouth beaver paneled van and lay on the floor playing Barbies. No seatbelts. Eating chips and drinking orange pop.
It was awesome.
But it got boring fast.
What did my parents do then to keep us happy and excited? Nothing. They told us to entertain ourselves. No whining or complaining allowed. We listened.
When I had my first heartbreak in my early twenties, my mom came into my room and sat with me as I cried through the injustice. She listened for a few minutes then said in a stern but meaningful manner “I’ll give you three days to mope around and feel sorry for yourself. After which, I don’t want to see this attitude.” That hurt, but it really helped me focus on the positive. If I couldn't cry to her, who would care? My best friends sure, but they were also thinking the same anyway. Everyone just wanted me to get over it. I needed to face the pain myself.
“A moment of patience in a moment of anger saves you a hundred moments of regret.”
I have seen many parents go to great lengths to help their children avoid disappointment, anxiety, heartbreak, and adversity. As a mom myself, I relate. But by doing so, these parents are avoiding some of life’s most important learning opportunities. That is, how to cope with disappointment and how to be resilient. My mom did that with me as I was mending my broken heart.
A child who is constantly shielded from unhappiness, adversity, and even hate, have the most difficult time coping when faced with one of those challenges as a grown child or young adult. Mommy can’t come and save the day all the time. And she shouldn’t.
“Some people need to learn to be a parent and not a friend. Quit being scared of making your kids mad. They’ll get over it!”- Rotten Cards
As I recently wrote about Letting Your Child Be Challenged, this too relates. Let your kids feel their own emotions when faced with something as tough as not making the baseball team. Instead of yelling at the coach or finding a really cushy other opportunity like going to Disney World, let him FEEL the hurt and the disappointment. Let him know that it’s normal to feel that way and guide him through ways in which he can process the pain himself.
This is an incredible gift to give him and something he will use wisely in the future. Next time instead of trying to shield your child or fix the situation yourself, let him manage it. He will learn so much about being stoic and resilient, and may even inspire you.
Resilience, stoicism, coping, emotional intelligence and learning how to process instead of reacting, are some of the skills your child will learn while going through all the emotions caused by disappointment and adversity. And the best way for them to master these emotions is to have them experience all the feelings themselves, with trusted guidance in helping them find their own comfort and solution to the problem
Let them feel hurt. Let them feel pain. It’s ok.
If you are there to support them, then they will become incredibly resilient adults.
And the best part, they will trust you.