Tag Archives: disappointment

Everything is canceled: How to help each other deal with the disappointment

Now that everything is shut down for us and the kids, the new reality may begin to sink in. They are missing that much-anticipated birthday party, the gymnastics meet and pajama day; plus the school is trying to turn home into school while mom and dad are trying to work in the next room.

Parents are getting mixed reactions from their kids that range from joy over extra time off to confusion and sadness over missing a canceled event — and often fear of the unknown.

Whether they’re forced to skip a musical performance, a tryout for a spring sport, a visit to their grandparents or a family vacation, simply telling children that disappointment is a part of life won’t cut it. In fact, just thinking about breaking the news may deepen anxiety in parents.

So how can parents help kids process their disappointment? Here is some advice from Jesus and some experts. (Annotating this article from the NY Times).

In Atlanta I saw families headed for Disney right before it was shut down.

Mom and Dad, check your own emotions.

Checking our emotions does not mean evaluating ourselves. Let’s sit down and feel with Jesus and get some encouragement about our value and future. Check in with Jesus and your emotions. The other night I asked our cell, “What encouragement would you give yourself?” Several people gave themselves an admonition to get it together, which did not sound too encouraging. A nonjudgmental look at ourselves would be more helpful — “How am I?” not “How am I bad?” We need our time with Jesus more than ever, so we can be reminded of our value and our future. Jesus is our peace.

Robin F. Goodman, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and art therapist in New York City says. “Fear can be contagious, so above all, parents need to monitor and manage their own worry, especially in front of their children. The good news is this also means that calm is contagious.” Jesus is our calm.

Be calm and honest

The government, the president in particular, were deceptive from the beginning about Covid-19. Senator Burr was selling off his holdings while helping to delay letting the public in on what he knew! Jesus is frank: “Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them” (Luke 6:46).

I’m not recommending having a house full of fury. But breaking down the situation into a child-sized narrative can help. Denying that something big is happening is dishonest. Trying to make things “normal” might create more anxiety than going with the abnormal flow. If we are not honest, the big unknown gets bigger and imaginations run wild with one’s own interpretation.

Gayle Cicero, Ed.D., a clinical assistant professor at the Loyola University Maryland School of Education says, “Regardless of a child’s age, honesty is the best approach.” But don’t throw out adult concepts children can’t handle. “Terms like ‘the right thing to do’ or ‘think about the elderly’ or ‘for the greater good’ are hard to grasp when, developmentally, kids are in a stage when their worldview centers around them, their family, and perhaps their neighborhood and friends.” That doesn’t mean we should dumb things down disrespectfully, but it does mean we may need to teach our kids what we are talking about when we say things like “trust God” or “even if I die, I will live again.” Our forced Sabbath would be a great time for a daily check in with the family to reinforce our common understanding, narrative and affection.

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Let everyone feel what they feel

Maybe you could ask the kids to illustrate the story you tell about Jesus feeling compassion for sick people, or the time he wept over the whole city of Jerusalem. Christianity first flourished among people who were disempowered and had little hope. Teens, in particular, may be facing all sorts of disillusionment, now that the society’s over-confident sense of power and control is falling apart. The pastors keep telling us our church was built for times like these. We have a place for and answers for the questions our feelings arouse.

Dr. Neha Chaudhary, M.D., child and adolescent psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital says, “When breaking the news of cancellations, parents should focus on validating their children’s emotions, whether that is disappointment or fear or something in between. Kids often gain comfort in knowing that they are not alone. It may help for parents to say that a lot of kids are feeling the same way and even admit that they are a little worried, too. At the end of the day, the most important thing that parents can do is to send their kid the message that it’s OK for them to feel what they are feeling. These are the interactions that help a child feel seen.”

Naming your child’s emotion (for example, saying, “That must be so disappointing”) helps them begin to realize what they are feeling, said Leighanne Scheuermann, an educator based in Dallas. “In the long term, your child is more likely to remember how you respond to their emotions and also will recognize the efforts you made to make the situation better for them.” The process of naming helps us all feel like we have choices we can make and feel like we are not completely helpless.

Learn about managing stress together

Many families in the U.S. are feeling the shock of not being in control. Their careful schedules are nonsense, their finances are shaky and their future is uncertain. In many ways this gives us all a new way to hear the Bible. The New Testament, in particular, is mainly written to people who were threatened by the authorities for following Jesus, and most of them were not that well off to begin with. 1 Peter, especially, takes on new layers of meaning, right from the beginning. (Try reading it every day for the rest of Lent):

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Some believers turn this into “Don’t worry, be happy” and turn their faith into another defense against feeling or facing what they fear. I read it as encouragement to let our faith ground us when the whole earth is being shaken. If you talk this over with the kids, you may find they have more natural faith than you expected. They might not have been trusting God because they were trusting you as you trusted your own power!

Roseann Capanna-Hodge, Ed.D., a psychologist and pediatric mental health specialist psychologist in Connecticut  says, “Disappointment can be linked to a feeling of loss of control in children. When you have to talk about canceled events that kids were looking forward to, think about it as a learning opportunity to manage disappointment. We often are so worried that our kids will get upset when we should be thinking: ‘What can my child learn here? Can they learn about managing stress and feeling upset?’”

It helps just to be a listening ear so your child can freely vent her frustration. It is tempting, as parents, to swoop in and wipe out disappointment. But, Dr. Cicero said, parents can actually get in the way of a child’s development when they do this. “Plus, there’s something so therapeutic about a person willing to hear you out and just be with you,” she added.

We will need more imagination than Netflix

I have been heartened by the amount of creativity and connectivity people have poured out this week. Some people have spent all their energy hunkering down and feeling shocked, of course. But others jumped right on it and shared their ideas and love.

Now we know the infectious atmosphere is apparently going to be around for a while. So we’ll eventually need to do something but watch TV. The other day one of our cell members got on our video text app and got us to sing encouraging songs to each other! That helped. Maybe you could have a family theme song for this new depth of Lent we are experiencing. Here is one from the deep Circle of Hope archive about waiting (Ps. 40): I waited for the Lord. (This is also good dance music for stuffed animals).

When a child’s emotions are really starting to disrupt his usual disposition or he seems stuck in a funk, it’s time for some creative direction from the parents. Alexandra Friedmann Finkel, L.C.S.W., a licensed clinical social worker and therapist in New York says, “A fun technique to distract younger kids is a color game. Have your child choose a color and look around the room to point out everything he can see in that color. This can help a child break the worry spiral and calm the body and mind,” she said. A mother was playing “I spy” with her kids on my final subway ride.

Dr. Goodman says, “Once your child is in a good place emotionally, don’t make any promises about rescheduling events or making up for lost time.” Instead, focus on what you can do now for enjoyment or to support your community. For example, rather than the planned movie party with friends, maybe you can improvise and celebrate a birthday at a park by flying kites and riding bikes with children who are present on Facetime.

Scheuermann suggests if your child is upset about missing the chance to star in a play, ask if she wants to put on a play with the stuffed animals. Maybe you can Zoom with Grandma for her birthday or support a local business by having a cake sent to her. Maybe you can film the stuffed animal play and send it to Grandma! If a vacation has been canceled, have the kids create a poster board of activities they wanted to do on that trip. Essentially, find a way to modify the missed activity so it can be creatively executed at home.

Dr. Capanna-Hodge says routine is crucial when tackling school closures, whether the teachers sent home a lesson plan or not. “Just by putting a routine in place can help alleviate stress for children and their parents. Create a homeschooling schedule and go over it every morning with your children and teens. Make sure to have consistency in your day-to-day and incorporate breaks, exercise and snack time.” Keep a physical copy of the schedule your child can look at, too. Watch out, of course, lest you interpret a child’s stress-induced resistance as a reason to get tough or give up. We can ease into it and build up our capacity. We’re facing enough losses, we don’t need to create more.

Dr. Capanna-Hodge says research shows those with a positive outlook can manage stress better and actually live longer. So this is a time to help foster resilience in our children. “While some kids have a glass-half-full outlook naturally, others need to develop that over time, and these kinds of disappointments are great opportunities to do so.” Obviously, making a crisis into a long lesson on religion and human development is not likely to feel that great — and merely knowing lessons does not breed enough resilience. But taking our best shot at wisdom enacted in love will bring hope to the whole household.

The regions of the internet I inhabit were filled with good people inventing helpful things for their kids to experience. Part of my motivation for writing this was to stoke the fire of that creativity, hope and sharing. The Circle of Hope Parents Listserv, Facebook, and your neighborhood email list (better create one!) are all good places to keep sharing. I don’t think the government is going to do a great job at saving us (again!), and I don’t think we will do that great a job at saving ourselves. But I do think we can cooperate with our Savior and humbly receive (and wisely judge) input from experts as we navigate these uncertain waters. I don’t know a better way to get home.

Use the comments section here or the Parents List to share what you are feeling and learning!

I am disappointed; what can I do?: Six ways to deal

In preparation for dinner Saturday, I turned on the Pandora “Hymns” channel. Soon we were listening to American Idol runner-up David Archuleta singing “Be Still My Soul” (complete with his Mariah Careyesque trill on various long notes). He sings it sincerely. It has been a comforting song since the 1850’s and I was comforted.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hast’ning on
when we shall be forever with the Lord,
when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past,
all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Image result for david archuleta be stillDavid is 26 now. He’s got a little more depth since he’s returned from his Mormon mission in Chile. He’s already had a long career. He started singing since at ten when he was inspired by a recording of Les Miserables (he later sang some of it for soldiers in Afghanistan). He was runner up for American Idol ten years ago — Utah was disappointed he did not win. His father was banned from the Idol backstage, then he was caught in a prostitution sting and then he was divorced. So David has faced some Utah-sized disappointment of his own. Spending most of your life in a Disneyfied atmosphere would be difficult enough.

He’s popular in the Philippines and other Asian countries. An interviewer there says “Helping and inspiring others, particularly those who are undergoing depression, has become a big part of David’s purpose in life. He admits that he himself went through a phase when he was depressed due to being bullied in school.” He told her, “Even when I was little, I’ve always had self-confidence issues. I got bullied and I was known as the quiet kid. I sat by myself during lunch and I would be made fun of. I was socially awkward. I think feeling good enough was something I always wondered.” Sometimes he gets on stage and looks like he is being bullied — most of the time, not so much.

We’re all disappointed sometimes

So even though he can sing like an angel, David Archuleta carries some disappointment with him and fears more of it, just like us. And like Mormons, Buddhists, Muslims, and us he’s looking forward to a time “when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone, sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.”

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Jesus followers look forward to a time when God

“will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

Some of us were ten-year-olds who become entranced by Les Mis and grew up to become talented optimists — most of us didn’t. We need God to save us from disappointment. We need to find some exultation, like Peter expressed when he wrote,

“In his great mercy [God] has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (1 Peter 1:3-4).

One day, the joy we have experienced in flashes will be the light in which we live. But even now we know our hope is not in vain because Jesus has delivered the first fruit of our future by rising from the dead, as we will.

I was inspired by the great hymn, by David, by John and Peter (and a little by Les Mis). So I am reminding us to hope. We have all experienced disappointment. Some of it has been severe, lately. Divorces depress more people than just the partners divorcing. Being cut off by former friends hurts. People have resigned their covenant with the church. Some people refuse to reconcile. We have not succeeded in all our goals. No amount of Disney-like happy talk or Archuleta pop confection  will overcome what we feel for long. For the long–haul of difficult lives, we need Jesus.

Feeling better is not all up to you

When I say that we need Jesus, many Christians interpret that to mean, “I need a trust upgrade.” They have been taught that if they feel something or suffer something it denotes a lack of faith. They must want something more than Jesus. The idea is: Jesus is our treasure and if we want something else, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. It is no wonder so many church people are so controlling, they are supposed to control their behavior so they will feel good! They need to get some treasure and protect it! There is something to be said for that strategy, but not much. It is true that if we keep doing dumb stuff, things won’t work out well. If we never get mentally and spiritually healthy, life will be difficult. If we are self centered, we will get ourselves and that’s it. But we’ll never be smart enough or healthy enough to avoid our share of disappointment, failure and grief. Stuff has already happened and more is coming.

If all you want is to be the American Idol and you don’t win you’ll lose hope. (99.99% of singers beware).  You might even blame God for not giving you the desires of your heart, as supposedly promised. If you are responsible for making Utah feel better because you win the contest, you might even feel responsible for a great deal of disappointment in the world. In Circle of Hope, this can be translated: people got divorced, people left the church, people were fighting, I/we/God must suck.

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I am so taken with the Lord’s vision for the world, I face disappointment every day. I am working with Jesus for transformation and it hasn’t happened just liked I wanted, has it? I keep allowing myself to be flabbergasted by the sin and death at work in the world, even though another load of it will be delivered in the news tomorrow, fake news or not. What do we do when the sorrow hits? When friends desert us? When we are not so smart? When our plans don’t work out?

I don’t think we should get smaller until we think we can keep things under control better. I think we should be as big as we are in the Spirit and start again right now, in resurrection hope. It is an everyday thing.

Six ways to deal with disappointment

Here are some things I collected for my journey after I bumped into David Archuleta on Pandora. If you are disappointed, there are some things you can try.

  1. Sing

Singing is a perfect way to pray. It reorients body, mind, heart and soul in a common direction toward our source of hope. Try David’s hymn. Sing along, or just be still and know God is with you.

  1. Talk to someone.

That’s what David Archuleta tells depressed Malaysian teenagers to do. He’s right. If you are 35-50 and you think you should know better, have lost the friends you used to talk to, are feeling marriage strains, you must not stay alone. Take a risk and talk about how you feel. A psychotherapist could help.

  1. Visit the Bible again.

You might just be on the endless loop of yourself inside. Just meditating on the two portions of the Bible quoted above might throw a wrench in the works and put you on a different track. If your spiritual disciplines seem to have failed, they might just need some deepening. Try something else. Take a day off and ask some deeper questions than you usually have time for. When you’re done reading this, blank out the screen and turn your face towards God.

  1. Listen to your suffering.

My experience has taught me that disappointment is a great teacher. If we are going through a seasonal (not chronic) depression, resisting it or anesthetizing it with something won’t get me anywhere. If you are blaming someone (or something, like injustice or Trump) you’d better reel that in and meditate on your own development in the safe place you have with God.

5. Let the past go and start from here.

This is the exciting news Peter was so happy about when he wrote his letter. He has a famous role in the story of the last days of Jesus. He was disappointed and distraught by the Lord’s death. He was disappointing, too, because he did not have the stuff to face his fears. But he got restarted after the resurrection.

We don’t know exactly what is going to happen. The future is always foggy. But we have the risen Savior with us, and that is our security. No matter what we have done, or what has happened to us, today is a beginning with Jesus. It will always feel like things are in the way, but there is no good reason, at least, not to take a first step again.

6. Bless the people who leave you on their way.

As a church, we prize our community and we let people into our love. So we get hurt — a lot. Some people get hurt and solve the problem of feeling bad by restricting or shutting off their love. We try not to do that, even when it is tempting. We hope we can suffer with Jesus and gain a resilient heart that can keep following in his way until the end. Even though our numbers are growing, people are always leaving, and it never feels good. We get connected. It is tempting to shut our doors, so we never have to feel left.

I think Jesus is an open door/open tomb kind of person. He blesses those who curse him. I think we should always keep the back door open to anyone we have loved. They might return. Besides, getting even or cutting off is not what we do. (I’m not talking about unrepentant  people who have abused us, or people on whom we are unhealthily dependent). Slamming the door in self-protection is not what Jesus does to us, even though we aren’t the best of friends for Him.

But even more than managing our back door, we should turn toward the front door.  There are six million people in the metro, a few of them, no doubt,  would love to be invited into your life. We are never just our past, we are always looking with confidence into the future. The past is gone, the new has come, and is coming. Look for the people who are new to you with the wisdom you are carrying now,  as the person you have become, and move into the next phase of your life.

Making six points about something makes it look easy or predictable! Our future and our feelings are not going to be easy and they are seldom predictable. But the love of God in Jesus is evident and permanent.  And the promise in the old song, sung by a young man, and often heard in our meetings is consistent:

Be quiet and listen for the assurance.
It won’t be long until we receive in full what we know in part.
One day disappointment, grief, and fear will be gone;
the tears will be wiped away and our living hope will be kissed by joy.
Be quiet and listen for the assurance.
Change and sorrow will be part of the journey
but we will arrive home safe and blessed.