Family psychologist Dr. Patti Zomber says that empowering your children socially involves offering comfort while also showing them how to turn disappointment into learning opportunities. Here’s how to help your child the next time she feels the sting of a disappointment.
Look for signs that your child is having difficulty with a friend, such as a lack of play dates, overnights, or phone calls.
Ask questions to help her identify what is really bothering her. Be aware that anger can be hurt in disguise. It may take a little while before the real issue surfaces.
Validate your child’s feelings. It’s tempting to try to cheer her up or gloss over the issue. But by acknowledging the hurt, you help your child understand that relationships aren’t things you take for granted and that they can change.
Don’t intervene by calling other parents unless necessary. If your child can work through the problem by developing her own coping skills, she’ll be ahead of the game the next time the situation arises.
"I’m not invited." Five-year-old Becky put down her backpack. "Some girls in my class are planning a teddy bear picnic on Saturday," she sighed, "and I’m not invited." Becky’s mom helped Becky handle her disappointment by explaining that not being chosen for one outing did not mean she was not likable, nor did it mean she would not be invited to other activities. Together, they planned a tea party with another mother and daughter at the antique-doll museum. Cultivating new relationships helped Becky develop confidence in her ability to make friends and initiate fun times with them.
"I’m the funniest kid on the soccer team, but..." Adam and Charlie had been friends since preschool. When they were both 8, Adam evolved into a really good soccer player. It took awhile, but Charlie found a niche for himself as well. Charlie’s dad helped by taking him out every Sunday to practice his moves. Together, they laughed at themselves and exchanged funny stories about embarrassing moments in sports. Charlie never became a great soccer player, but he won admiration for his sense of humor, which never failed to boost the morale of his team. Adam and Charlie learned to concentrate on their respective strengths and appreciate their differences.
"I’ve been replaced." Eleven-year-old Stacey confided to her mom that she was feeling hurt. Her best friends, Kim and Ashley, befriended a new girl and no longer ate lunch with Stacey. Stacey’s mother knew that girls of this age typically "try on" new friends. Adolescence is a very insecure and unstable time for girls. Stacey’s mom shared how awkward she felt at this age. She reminded Stacey that shifts in friendship alliances are also opportunities to make new friends, pursue new interests, and learn new things about ourselves. Stacey’s mom helped her daughter value herself despite the daily ups and downs of middle school social life.
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