Parenting During the Pandemic: Let your kids be disappointed


If your child has been disappointed (because they won’t be able to attend prom, walk across the stage for graduation, have a birthday party with friends) then this blog post is for you

Helping your child deal with disappointment is not new. Think of all the times your child expressed sadness or negative emotions due to their hopes or expectations not being fulfilled. Probably happens all the time, right? Even if it’s small- not eating the fudge brownie for dessert, not earning an A on a test, or not getting the shoes they want for their birthday. Disappointment is natural, and yet, can be challenging to combat. Sometimes, disappointment can feel like a dead end; like okay, your child is upset, they are screaming and crying, and now what?


Disappointment is actually a good thing!


Imagine that your child is not affected by the pandemic, that they do not care about missing out on important life events or activities. Disappointment is related and connected to something that your child values.

For example, I was disappointed that I was not able to go skiing with my friends in late March- a trip we were so excited about. My disappointment was related to my values of hanging out with friends and being active.


I am grateful for my disappointment. This emotional state reminds me what it is important in my life.


Dr. Robert Leahy, clinical psychology and director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy in NYC, wrote an article about the two pathways on handling difficult emotions. I’ve adapted his model in his article for the purposed of disappointment but here is the gist:



  • Normalizing their emotions will lead your child to accept, experience, and express their emotions which is a very healthy process for their emotional well-being.

  • Pathologizing their emotions means that either 1) they avoid the emotion (“it’s whatever that I can’t go back to school; it’s fine, I don’t care) or 2) they have negative interpretations about their disappointment (“feeling disappointed means I’m weak or stupid”). This pathway inevitably leaves your child thinking their emotion is problematic which can lead to more negative emotions or coping less effectively.

  • I think everyone would prefer their child to normalize their emotions, but you might be wondering… HOW?!


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  1. Label the disappointment.

    • Labeling the disappointment provides your child with a way to describe and understand their thoughts and feelings more accurately. By labeling, you know you are both on the same page and are speaking the same lingo.

    • Sit down with your child to define the disappointment.

  2. Validate it.

    • This is so important! Imagine how you have felt disappointed over the past few weeks. I know for me, I have had friends postpone their weddings, friend whose sister gave birth and she cannot meet her niece and a single-mom friend who is physically disconnected from everyone except for her baby.

    • Even if you do not understand why they are disappointed, they want to know and need to know that their emotions make sense and that it’s normal to feel upset.

      • Side note- if they are engaging in destructive behaviors, validate the emotion and then problem-solve those behaviors.

  3. Problem-solving, if necessary.

    • Okay, so now you can look at- how are they dealing or coping with disappointment?

      • Are they on their phones? Making TikTok videos for hours on end? Playing video games and glued to the screens? In their room for 14 hours a day? Are they getting their school work done?

    • Most kids will be engaging in less productive behaviors right now- they are spending at least 9 more hours at home a day than prior to COVID-19 and may only have a couple of hours of school work. So- what else should they be doing?

    • Parents- now is a good time to balance and loosen expectations just a bit. If they are on their phone for a few more hours a day, that’s okay. If their sleep schedule is off, that’s okay too.

    • However, Look out for signs that they are not functioning as well. If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, most clinics around the country are functioning completely virtual and you can get a professional opinion through a virtual intake.

  4. Showtime! Taking disappointment into your own hands.

    • Parents, model for your kids how to handle and cope with disappointment. Choose an example that is not too distressing and with content that is appropriate. I’ll use the example that I cannot see my best friend’s baby, who is basically my niece:

    • Label when you are feeling disappointed to show that feeling disappointed is normal.

      • “I am feeling really disappointed that I can’t see my niece during this pandemic. I would love to see her crawl for the first time in person.”

    • Process the emotion aloud.

      • “I am feeling sad and know that I am going to miss out on some important milestones.”

    • Connect the emotion to a value that is important to you.

      • “Missing those milestones and not seeing her sucks since I really value seeing my friends”

    • Probelm-solve, if needed

      • “There is not much to do, but rather accept this situation. I can Facetime my friend and niece to feel a little bit more connected”.

Allowing your child to experience disappointment will teach them valuable skills on how to accept life, even when it doesn’t go our way. Try this method out with yourself first, then with your child.