by Jessica Cleary, Psychologist
Like many parents in Australia I have a devastated teenager in the house after fruitless efforts trying to get Taylor Swift tickets this week.
As parents, we strive to support our teenagers through life's ups and downs, including moments of disappointment that are beyond their control. Whether it's missing out on tickets to Tay Tay or facing other circumstances where they have no influence over the outcome, our role as compassionate and loving parents becomes crucial.
By providing the right guidance and support, we can help our teenagers navigate disappointment and emerge stronger and more resilient. Here are five tips to assist you in helping your teenager through situations where they lack control, with love and understanding.
1) Practice active empathy:
In moments of disappointment, actively empathise with your teenager's feelings and experiences. Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand the depth of their emotions. Let them know that you are there to listen and support them wholeheartedly. By showing genuine empathy, you create a strong bond and provide reassurance that they are not alone in their struggles.
2) Avoid comparisons:
Avoid comparing your teenager's disappointment to others' experiences or minimising their feelings. Each person's disappointments are valid and unique to them. Remember that everyone has different expectations and sensitivities, and what might seem insignificant to one person can be deeply disappointing for another. By avoiding comparisons, you create an atmosphere of compassion and respect for their individual emotions. Any sentence that starts with "At least..." is one to be avoided.
3) Encourage self-expression:
Once the dust settles a little, encourage your teenager to express their disappointment through creative outlets, such as writing, painting, or playing music. These forms of self-expression can provide a cathartic release for their emotions and allow them to process their disappointment in a constructive way. By embracing their creativity, you empower them to channel their feelings into something meaningful and transformative.
4) Be patient and non-judgmental:
It's essential to be patient and non-judgmental when supporting your teenager through disappointment. Avoid offering quick solutions or trying to snap them out of it. It's very uncomfortable for us to see our children distressed so often we can try to shift them out of their 'mood' to ease our own distress. That's not what's needed here. Instead, provide them with the space and time they need to process their emotions and navigate their own path to healing. By demonstrating patience and non-judgment, you foster an environment of trust, emotional safety and unconditional love.
5) Nurture self-compassion:
In situations where disappointment arises from circumstances beyond their control, it's crucial to nurture self-compassion within your teenager. Encourage them to be kind to themselves and avoid self-blame or negative self-talk. If you notice any of this type of talk, gently remind them that disappointments are not personal failures and that they are not defined by external outcomes. Teach them to practice self-care and self-compassion by engaging in activities that promote their well-being, such as spending time with loved ones, pursuing hobbies, or engaging in mindfulness practices.
It’s so hard to bear witness to our children’s experience of disappointment. Remember that your support and understanding are invaluable in helping your teenager face these challenges and emerge stronger. These practices can help your teenager embrace the uncertainties of life, navigate disappointments, and forge a path towards a fulfilling and resilient future with a compassionate heart.