The past few days we have had a conversations with several schools and the discussion has moved on to the same topic. In more affluent areas the children seem to be less resilient and able to cope with the challenges of the world than in areas where deprivation is more widespread. In a strange twist of what we hear in the media, children from low-income families seem, in some ways, more prepared for life in the ‘real world’.
It seems that children from affluent neighbourhoods are less likely to have been exposed to the problems of society and are less likely to encounter disappointment. It also seems that they are less resilient and find it difficult to adapt in key transition points in their lives. We have not carried out research on this but the anecdotal evidence seems to be very strong.
Any loving parent hates to see their child disappointed. Disappointment is an unpleasant emotion and one that everyone has experienced to some degree in their lives. The extreme empathy that we often feel when we witness disappointment provokes the majority of us to spring into action to address the cause.
Affluent families have the means to ‘pay their way out’ of many situations. If a child’s toy breaks they can buy another to replace it. If they miss out on an opportunity, the parents can pay for them to take part in a similar one. In the past, when families had less available ‘ready cash’ this was not so common. Children had to deal with the disappointment, process it and move on.
So does this mean that we should engineer situations into our children’s lives to enable them to experience disappointment? On the face of things this would seem extreme and unethical. If we are to bring our children up to face the challenges of life however, they do need to have the ability to deal with these experiences.
Here are a few ways that parents can support their child through disappointment, rather than taking the disappointment away.
- Encourage children to take part in competitions, team sports etc and help them to realise that although they might not win every time, they benefit from taking part
- Make children earn and then wait for certain privileges rather than immediately handing them everything they want on a plate
- If a toy gets broken or lost, don’t rush out to buy a new one, however hard this might be. The child will learn a valuable lesson about loss and taking care of possessions that will protect them from greater losses later in life
- When a child suffers a disappointment, rather than rushing to sort things out, encourage them to talk about their feelings, what they have learnt from these and identify something positive that has come out of the situation
Does this seem like harsh parenting? We don’t think so. Let us not deny our children the opportunity to experience the full range of emotions and develop ways to handle these effectively. One day they will find themselves in a situation that money can’t put right. One day, if nature takes its usual course, a parent won’t be there any longer to make it all better. Let us hope that when this day comes we have given our children the true gift that they need – the ability to cope.