There’s a lot of talk about helicopter (or insert your other favorite adjective lawnmower/hovering/bulldozer) parents these days. But it is tempting to want to play that role in our kid’s lives. Especially when it comes to protecting our kids from pain.
Few moments are harder for a parent than watching your son or daughter experience a disappointment. Whether it’s being cut from the team, failing the test, or not getting the part in the school play, teenage disappointments can feel devastating. Even if the situation doesn’t seem like a big deal to us, it can cause a teen to nosedive!
A Lack of Perspective
I remember when I was being interviewed for a high school newspaper as a new youth pastor in town. I was asked,
“What is one thing you want teens to know?”
My answer was simple.
“So many things in a teen’s life feel like they carry the weight of the world. If it doesn’t happen now, don’t worry, you have a lot of life left to live.”
I’m not sure they found this answer very profound. In fact I’m not sure they even gave it much thought. For a teen, there’s a lot of pressure to have the right friends, get the right grades, date the right person, make your name in sports, and the list goes on. In the middle all of this, students don’t always have a lot of perspective. They can’t always see past the here and now.
No one wants to see their kid crumble under this pressure. That’s why it’s so tempting to help students avoid disappointment instead of learning to deal with it. In our minds we know that let-downs are a part of life and teaching our students to manage them is healthy, but there is a difference between “preparing the path for the child and preparing the child for the path”.
Does that mean we have to be completely hands-off when our son or daughter is going through a tough time? Not necessarily.
In his blog post, Helping Students Handle Disappointment and Pain, Dr. Tim Elmore gives parents four tips for helping their students walk through a disappointing time without bailing them out of it.
- Talk to students about disappointment and pain. Let them know it is a part of life and a big part of growing up into healthy adults.
- Share some of your own stories of past hurt or disappointments, and how you learned to deal with them.
- Give your students perspective — big picture perspective — one that really matters. Help them separate the eternal issues from the temporal ones.
- Do something together that may introduce sacrifice or hurt, and reflect on the experience along the way.
These seem like simple conversations or suggestions, but I can’t encourage you enough to carve out time to sit, be present, and talk it through. Even if it drives you crazy how irrational it seems! You attention and presence is much more impactful than you know!
One of the greatest things we can do for our children is give them the tools to navigate disappointment. Sharing stories is a great way to model both the how-to and the how-not-to when it comes to handling tough circumstances.
Choose one of the options below as a conversation starter sometime this week.
Option 1: Talk about one person who has inspired you in the way they have handled disappointment.
Option 2: Share a story of a time you were disappointed (by a situation that does not involve your family) and how you could have handled that disappointment in a healthier way.
Now What? is also a series we are teaching students this month developed by our good friends at Orange. Get connected to a wider community of parents at www.orangeparents.org.