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Help Kids Cope with Disappointment in the Face of COVID-19


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In the world impacted by the new coronavirus, it can seem like everything fun or even meaningful has been canceled. From birthday parties and vacations to school plays, sports, and possibly even graduation ceremonies, a lot of special moments your girl has hoped and planned for are suddenly either postponed or simply not happening.

Of course, in the grand scheme of things, missing out on a planned field trip or play date is a small amount of suffering compared to those whose loved ones may become ill or are at high risk for the virus, but that doesn’t mean your girl won’t feel disappointed. Here’s how you can help her cope and learn to be resilient in these rapidly changing times.

Be Honest
Trying to shield your girl from the truth for as long as possible might seem easier than telling her something she’s really been looking forward to has been canceled. But when the world is upside down, your girl is depending on you more than ever to be on her team as someone she can trust. You might not have all the answers—some events are being postponed indefinitely, some canceled altogether—and that’s OK, but it’s important not to hide information from her. If your younger girl is having trouble understanding why plans have to change, let her know that the grownups are working hard to keep everyone safe and healthy and that some activities are going to have to wait a while until the grownups can figure this out and make sure everyone’s out of harm’s way.

Give Her Space
Bottling up feelings and acting as though everything is fine when it’s actually not isn’t good for anyone’s mental health. It’s important for her to know that feeling disappointed right now is totally normal and even healthy. If she needs a day or two to sulk in her room or she’s feeling extra moody, let her know you’re disappointed about things right now too, and understand that she must be hurting—then give her a little time and space to get out her frustrations. Encourage her to safely connect with friends who are likely going through similar disappointments right now. A sense of community and friendship will help her see that she’s not the only one feeling sad or angry and can make her feel much better in the long run.

Have Her Lead the Path Forward
A lot of things are uncertain right now, but that doesn’t mean the world has stopped spinning. Life goes on, just a bit differently than we all planned. Sit with her and have her come up with new plans that work within your current circumstances. If she’s upset that a dance recital or school play will be canceled, are there other creative ways she could share her performance from home—perhaps using video? If she’s disappointed about missing a friend’s birthday or other special occasion, perhaps she could make something to mail to the loved ones she won’t be celebrating with in person. Coming up with creative solutions in challenging times is a skill that can give her a sense of control during the coronavirus pandemic and show her how to thoughtfully be of service to others throughout her life.

Let Her Help
One of the best ways to get over a disappointment? Helping others work through hard times of their own. A lot of people are feeling scared, angry, and lonely right now and could use a little cheering up. Have her think of ways that she can bring some happiness and joy to people feeling isolated or frightened. From writing silly songs to sing to her grandparents on their next call to writing thank-you cards to the health professionals working hard to keep us all safe, finding a way to give back can give her a sense of purpose and control while also making the world a better place.