From missing out on the school team to being told off by a favourite teacher, as children move up through school they begin to face a whole new world of emotions as, perhaps for the first time, things don’t always go as planned.
Gradually they will leave behind a classroom where everyone gets a turn to ‘bat’ and a part in the Christmas nativity, and where marks and grades play second fiddle to a more rounded view of their progress. Instead, results begin to take on a greater significance and competition grows for places in school teams and performances.
Other issues such as falling out with friends and even teasing are all part of growing up, and can all come as a bit of a shock.
To help them grow into well-rounded adults, they need to learn how to handle failure, and parents can play a big role talking to their children and turning these setbacks into character-building events. After all, it will be easier for them to learn how to come to terms with disappointment now rather than when they’re older, and the stakes are a lot higher than a place in the school football team, or a gold star at maths.
When a failure happens, we want our children to be able to bounce back from it, ideally having learnt something from the whole experience.
Try not to smother them – they need to express their disappointment and let their feelings develop. It’s good to reflect on what went wrong but don’t let them dwell on it for too long.
Help them to accept what happened and think about why things turned out as they did. Try and think about a time when something didn’t go well for you as a child. How did you deal with it?
Of course there will be times when these things happen due to little or no fault of their own – and that in itself is important to learn.
If your child flunks a test, try and make them to see it as just a setback and something that can rectified next time. Explain how they might feel really bad now but there will be another test soon enough. Try and emphasise the importance of having a positive attitude and not giving up or feeling like a failure just because of one experience.
You may wish to talk about change too, and perhaps setting some new goals and adopting a different approach – perhaps with a bit more effort they could succeed next time?
Being left out of a team or missing out on a school performance hurts, even more so if it’s an activity that your child really enjoys. It can be a good idea to prepare children in advance for any potential disappointment. Make a list together about all the possible goals of a trial or audition – one can be making the team or play, but the others could focus on having fun, trying your best and learning something new. In other words, you’re giving your child lots of different definitions of what it means to be successful.
It’s also worth remembering that sometimes the disappointment may have come because the child simply isn’t cut out for the netball team or singing a solo in the choir. That’s fine, you can’t be good at everything, and now may be a good time to explore other things they enjoy.
And of course you could always bring out their favourite BrainBox game, when you know that there’s only ever going to be one winner!