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How to help your child to cope with disappointment?

by ines.wurbs@icloud.com

Even if we want to avoid disappointment for our children at all costs, it is neither possible nor sensible. BUT: we can help them to cope with disappointments. Help with:

  • the search for the cause,
  • adjusted expectations,
  • other resources and
  • Clarification.

Read on here for details.

Why are our children disappointed?

Disappointments are always about one’s expectations that have been disappointing. 

Expectations we have of our children

The search for the cause always starts with ourselves. Theoretically, expectations are not a bad thing. However, they should be adapted to the skills of our children.

Otherwise, expectations that are too low or too high damage our children’s self-esteem. Above all, expectations that are too high lead to disappointment, both for us and for our children. 

“The greatest disappointments come from great expectations.”

Ernst Ferstl

Expectations our children have of themselves

But of course, our children also have expectations. And sometimes they are disappointed. Children first must learn to assess themselves well; sometimes they naturally overestimate their abilities. This even happens to us adults. 

When our children misjudge their abilities, we must be there for our child and help them learn from their mistakes. You can find out more about this here.

Expectations of our children are disappointed by others

Sometimes they are also let down by others because they have relied on someone or because they make assumptions about the behavior of others. This is of course heartbreaking for us parents. Nevertheless, an important learning process for our children. Here it is important to support our children. 


Ask what your child expected and what happened. Then ask if your child said the same thing to the other person. 

Disappointed expectations are often caused by wrong assumptions and too little communication. This is of course also the case with our children. They also have to learn how to take other people’s perspectives. This is not the case until about the age of 4 and then improves rapidly with age. So, they first have to learn that others don’t see things the same way or think the same as they do. 

Clarifying expectations, preferably beforehand, can help your child adjust their expectations. In this way, you can also communicate this to your counterpart, and it is not so easy to be disappointed.

Family, friends, hobbies

These are the resources our children have and can use. These help our children to deal better with disappointments. They give them security and provide the support they can rely on.

This is good for them and also protects the self-esteem of our children. In this way, they will have many positive experiences. Normally, there are more good than bad experiences. As a result, they have a surplus of good experiences and can thus cope with disappointments much more easily.

Chart of disappointment

11 tips to help your child with disappointment

  • Be honest with yourself and your child
  • Have age and ability-adjusted expectations
  • Also, praise your child for the effort they put in, not just for reaching the goal 
  • Try to clarify in advance what your child’s expectations are
  • Always encourage your child to communicate their needs
  • Don’t project your disappointments onto your child. So just because you’re disappointed doesn’t mean your child is.
  • Even when they experience disappointments, try to emphasize the good in them
  • Discuss with your child ways of doing things differently next time. 
  • Be there for your child and comfort them when needed
  • If you can’t be there, I recommend a worry eater that your child can take with him/ her everywhere, as a loyal companion
  • Show your child what other supports they have, friends, hobbies, etc.
  • Encourage your child to try again

Why does disappointment hurt?

Disappointed expectations and therefore unfulfilled needs naturally cause frustration in us and our children. Frustration manifests itself differently in children. Some react with anger and some cry.

You can help your child deal with their emotions at this point in particular. Explain to your child that you understand and comfort them. When it has calmed down and is receptive again, they try to find out together what went wrong and find alternative approaches together.

If your child has no support in such situations, they will feel helpless. If this is repeated in certain situations, it is called “learned helplessness”.

“Learned helplessness is a state of negative expectations based on the insight or conviction that problems cannot be solved with the existing possibilities for thinking and acting.”

WD Happy

Frustration and helplessness harm motivation. Furthermore, also learning and self-esteem. It is important to avoid these consequences.

We will not always be able to be there for our children, but it is enough if we are mostly there for them to support them even in difficult situations. A secure bond makes this possible. 


Disappointments are part of life and part of our children’s learning. We cannot avoid it, but we can prepare our children for it in the best possible way and help them through it.

If you want to find out more about parental expectations and their impact on academic achievement, I have selected this work for you.

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