Re-experiencing Life’s Disappointments the Second Time Around

Who else thinks it’s WORSE to witness your children be disappointed than experiencing disappointment for yourself?

However, how else would we be able to relate to our children experiencing their hopes being dashed if we’ve always got what we hoped for in life?

I’m pretty sure experiencing disappointment is inevitable in this life.  Mainly because we are human and imperfect.  Furthermore, we live with other human and imperfect people.

Personally, the most difficult disappointments to recover from stem from my expectations of other people.  And maybe even more so, the expectations of myself.  Being disappointed with yourself is a tricky thing.  It can lead to depression or it can be a catalyst for change and growth in yourself.  I have experienced both of those outcomes and definitely prefer the latter.

So how do we teach our children to overcome disappointment in a healthy way?

Point to ponder:

Is it possible that many of us parents have perpetuated “entitlement” in our kids because we don’t want to see our children disappointed?  We don’t want to see our children in pain or hurt, so we do what we can to protect them from that.  However, instead we have created a monster of a generation…kids who feel entitled to anything they want.  I’m ashamed to admit I have done this a time or two.  I hate to see my children hurting.  It seems to be more painful to watch my children experience pain, frustration or hurt more than it would be for me to experience it.  Why is that?  Yes, of course, because I love my children.  But maybe, just maybe, it is because I’ve had my fair share of disappointments in life so it is easier to deal with them and therefore I’ve created the skill of coping with them.  Which leads me back to… what happens to our children if we shelter them from disappointment?  Are we helping our children or hindering?  I would have to answer that by sheltering our kids from experiencing disappointment, {by not saying No to their desires, if it’s within our control} we are hindering their capacity to cope with inevitable trials and setbacks that WILL come in life.

My initial purpose of this post is not about the disappointments that come from when we as parents withhold something from our kids.  But, it is something to think about and ponder.  Instead, I am talking about the disappointments that come to our children where we have absolutely no control over.  These are the worst!

Out of Our Control:

You knew I was going to give you examples, right?


The last couple of weeks 2 of our 3 kids decided to run for student council at their schools.

My Son ran for 8th grade Vice President.  I was happy he wanted to do this.  We worked on his campaign flyers & posters together.  He came up with a catchy slogan: “Everyone says, {his name} for vice prez.”  Here’s one of the posters we came up with:

Unfortunately, he did not win the election. 🙁  I was and am still sad for him, but I am proud of his courage to try.


My Daughter ran for 4th grade Historian.  However, apparently 50 other kids wanted to run for this office.  The school decided to have a primary election and narrow the candidates down to 3 per office.  They were asked to write a paragraph of why they wanted to run for that office.  According to my Daughter, they read the paragraphs to all the children in the school {1st grade through 4th grade} and the students voted last Thursday.

The kids had Friday off last week for Parent Teacher Conferences.  My Daughter deducted she would find out if she made the top 3 on Monday, today.  Here’s the deal…the counselor called me on Friday and left me a voice mail, “I’m sorry she did not make the top 3 for historian.”  She said she didn’t want her to worry about it all weekend.  Well, I’m sorry, but I didn’t want to ruin her weekend with that news.  This was a big deal for our Daughter.  She was hopeful and excited about this opportunity.  She already informed me that if she didn’t make historian she wouldn’t cry as long as she got into the top 3.

I couldn’t do it.

I couldn’t tell her. {gasp!}

I sent her to school knowing she would find out there…knowing I wouldn’t be there to witness her heart break, her hopes spoiled.  I debated all weekend about it.  I even spent some time trying to find a good story to share about a child being disappointed with a good outcome in the end.

I don’t want to know if you think I’m a horrible Mom or not because of the choice I made.  Either way, whether I told her the news or the school did, I am going to be there to give her a hug and do my best to comfort her when I pick her up from school.  Hopefully, she will have had some time to process the news and it won’t be as bad when I pick her up…HOPEFULLY.


The last time my youngest Daughter experienced a serious disappointment was this summer when we entered her into a local pageant.  I debated letting her do the pageant because it was not your usual beauty pageant for her age group.  It was basically a fundraiser for a local organization where they paired young girls up with the teen beauty pageant contestants.  The young girls, the pageant calls “stars,” were paired up with the beauty contestants and walked on stage with them during the evening gown competition.  Each star decorated a shoebox.  At intermission, the audience was asked to put money {donation to the local organization for charities} in the box of their favorite star.  In other words, I knew she would not win.  It is a known fact that parents usually donate thousands of dollars to ensure their child wins.  We told her up front she would not win, but that this would be a great experience for her.  I debated her doing the pageant because I didn’t want to see her upset when she didn’t win, but I figured if we were up front with her it would be okay.  It was a wonderful experience even though she didn’t win.  However, she did cry herself to sleep that night.

I’m afraid I don’t have any easy answers on how to ease our pain as parents seeing our children’s hopes spoiled.  I have realized through writing this post the importance of our kids having these experiences.  Disappointments are vital and the ONLY way our kids can learn coping skills for experiencing real life and the setbacks they will face.  If we deprive them of feeling pain and disappointment, we are only making their future adult life much more difficult.

Time to pick up the kids.  I might cry with her, but that’s okay, isn’t it?  Wish me luck or say a prayer or two for us.  Thanks.

It’s going to be OKAY,


  1. Oh, yes, it is so hard to watch your child be hurt or disappointed. However, to learn to roll with the punches and find something else to be involved in is part of the process. Your support and empathy will help your children.
    The hardest thing for me was to keep the empathy in line with the disappointment. You don’t want to make too big of a deal out of it, but you do want to let them know you understand their disappointment. I’m not sure I ever mastered that, but all we moms can do is give it our best shot.
    Hang in there. Parenting is so hard, isn’t it? Maybe a dinner of just ice cream sundaes is in order.

  2. Cheryl Beaty says

    I love Jan’s final statement above!!! LOL I can certainly relate to the pain of watching your child experience disappointment at any age. Love, Mom


  1. […] long ago I shared a post about the difficulty of seeing our children experience disappointments.  This was a huge eye opener for me.  Even though it is difficult and quite heart wrenching for […]

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