Helping Children Manage Disappointment

Disappointment is a part of life, and kids experience it too. If children learn to manage disappointment, they'll be stronger because of it.
Helping Children Manage Disappointment
Elena Sanz Martín

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz Martín.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

We all have to deal with situations in our lives that are far from what we had imagined. Relationships that end, friendships that aren’t up to par, frustrating projects… Disappointment is a part of life, and not even childhood is spared from its presence. For this reason, it’s important to help children learn how to manage disappointment.

As parents, our greatest desire is to keep our little ones safe. Not just on a physical level, but also emotionally. We try to save them from any pain, any suffering, so they can enjoy a peaceful and happy childhood.

Unfortunately, we can’t control everything that happens. Inevitably, disappointment will knock on your door one day. Therefore, we need to be prepared to teach them to deal with it in a healthy way. In addition, we need to give them resources that help them learn and emerge stronger from these situations.

Helping Children Manage Disappointment

Why does disappointment happen?

We could define disappointment as the set of negative emotions that are triggered when something doesn’t go as planned. In all cases, disappointment is closely linked to expectations.

It’s the illusion that we had created in our mind that’s broken by disappointment. We suffered the loss of something that we thought was real. It’s the difference between what we expect and what actually happens that unleashes sadness, anger and frustration.

It’s true that expectations are inevitable. To move around the world, we need to anticipate what is going to happen. But, when our expectations are inflexible and unrealistic, there’s a problem. If we aren’t prepared to accept that things change, disappointment will hit us harder.

On the other hand, it’s important to keep in mind that the impact will be harder the greater the emotional involvement we have with the situation. That is, disappointment will hurt more the closer we are to the person disappointing us. Also, the disappointment with a frustrating project will be greater the more time and effort we have invested in it.

Disappointment in children

Although childhood seems like a wonderful stage that many of us want to go back to, we can’t forget that kids also face challenges. As much as we try to protect them, disappointment will make an appearance in the form of a teacher who gives a bad grade, a friend who betrays them or tryouts for a team they don’t make.

It’s important to be with your child during these moments and guide them to face these experiences in an appropriate way. Here are some guidelines that may help you teach your child how to manage disappointment.

Helping Children Manage Disappointment

Tips to help children manage disappointment

  • Teach them to set realistic expectations. Positive thinking and self-esteem are two important values to teach your child. However, we can’t fall into the illusion that the world is perfect and so are we. Instead, we have to analyze reality as it is and change our thoughts. It’s important to know what can happen and to be prepared to face it.
  • Work on mental flexibilityRigid people tend to suffer more from life’s unpredictable events. So, let’s help our children understand that things change and we have to go with the flow. Knowing how to adapt our thoughts and behavior to the changes is important.
  • Help them not get stuck in pain. Emotions bring us information. Then, once we hear it, we have to move forward. Don’t reinforce wallowing in self pity. On the other hand, encourage them to get up feeling stronger and wiser.
  • Guide them so they can reinterpret disappointment and see it from a broader perspective. It’s not healthy to think that the other person is evil or that we aren’t good enough. Each experience brings us learning. Additionally, our job isn’t to judge others, but to come out of it feeling stronger.


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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.