Helping Teens Manage Disappointment

Strategies and peer-to-peer practical parenting tips to help teens get through their lost summer.

It’s one thing to manage the disappointments brought about by Coronavirus as an adult, it’s another altogether to manage it as a teenager.

All those end of term parties, proms and gatherings, all the travelling, holidays, and festivals and even for the less frivolous-minded all those exams that would validate all the hard work put in over the last few years.

It’s all been whisked away, like the proverbial rug underpinning hopes, dreams and aspirations and expectations.

Many teens we talk to speak of feeling cheated – will their grades forever be known as the pandemic generation with bogus results? Let alone all the freedoms and excitement the summer months normally bring.

It is understandable – and normal – for them to feel disappointment but this doesn’t mean it’s easy to manage or support. Knowing that we can’t fix this, we can only really help them by teaching the life skills of how to deal with disappointment and carry on. 

Here we have some tips to help you help them navigate their way through this complex emotional journey.

  1. Acknowledge their feelings and ‘their right’ to have them.
  2. Stay calm while they talk and comfort them.
  3. Listen to them, acknowledge that we can’t fix this situation but they need to be heard. Much as parents normally like to advise and provide solutions – resist – let them offload onto you and show empathy for them.
  4. Ask them open ended questions to delve deeper into the reasons for their disappointment – it may go deeper than just the missed event and it will help them to work through their disappointment if they understand exactly what the root cause is.
  5. Encourage them to be resilient and persevere – an understanding that setbacks are part of life will help them, not only through this particular issue, but also to dust themselves off and keep going as they make their way in the world.
  6. Provide a framework of perspective – without veering into the cliché ‘there are people starving in the world’, try to give them relatable examples of people who are struggling more than themselves.
  7. Looking forward, help them to set reasonable expectations that will keep them motivated about the future and break this into manageable timeframes – today, this week, this month, half term, summer holidays, holiday plans etc.
  8. Make a plan of things they want to do, learn or achieve despite the changed situation – could they learn an instrument or a sport, get fit(ter), learn to sew or a language, start a podcast or a youtube feed.
  9. Find an activity to give them a feeling of self-worth – can they help their community by cooking for elderly, delivering prescriptions, helping out at food banks – see what’s in your local area and where they could make a difference
  10. Encourage positive activities that will help them feel connected – is there a regular social activity they can be part of like a family game or school quiz – even if it’s virtual for the time being.

Practical Parenting – Teen parents 

“We have a lockdown pot on the dining room table – everyone can put in a piece of paper with something they are missing which we will do as soon as we’re able.”

“My teen was gutted to be missing a summer full of trips, so we’ve asked to her think about how we could recreate them as much as possible here.”

“We have a memory jar we can add to with positives and negatives. I think I’ll put them in a book once its over so this time next year we can look back and really remember the little things – good and bad.”

“We have a family bike ride at 6pm every day – it gives us all a routine for exercise as well as a segway from school into evening.”

“When our teen daughter helps home school our primary aged son we give genuine rewards – not massive things - but little treats that make her feel better.”

“Forget about stressing over screen time and tidying their room! They need to communicate with their friends right now and this is the best, safest way. Nagging about rooms only aggravates them when they need cuddles and reassurance – pick your battles!”

“I suggested my daughter write a diary but that seemed like a chore, so we changed it to be quotes and words that sum up each day and doodles. It seems to be working better.”