Why did I research this?

My three year old is easily devastated.

“You are not the shopkeeper.  I am!”

“I said I didn’t want a banana sandwich!”

“I can’t find my thongs!”

“I can see my socks sticking out of my shoes!”

I know it’s the age and it will pass but for now… besides me providing empathy, distracting him, pointing out his dilemmas as ‘first world’ and offering hugs, what else can I say to teach my son that life is full of difficult times and we need to rise above them?

What did I find out?

Disappointment is real, regardless of where you live or what is happening.  You want to say, “Get the heck over it” because you know there are people far worse off than your own children but this feeling is genuinely felt by all people and can get the better of us if we let it by turning to sadness and even anger.

There is a way to explain disappointment to children that also teaches resilience through coping strategies.  It is based on Al-Ghani’s book The Disappointment Dragon.  The book explores a variety of disappointments and explains through its characters that disappointment is one of those feelings that can take over if we let it.

Through K.I Al-Ghani’s characters, The Disappointment Dragon and the Dragon of Hope children are able to discuss their feelings and learn how to cope with them openly by learning strategies to defend against the Disappointment Dragon.  By identifying the feeling then singing, humming or distracting yourself, children can fend off disappointment and avoid it taking over.

What does this look and sound like?

  1. Identify the feeling when you see it in your child. “You are feeling disappointed.  Is that right? You are disappointed because…”
  2. Explain disappointment. “Disappointment is like a dragon.  I’ve heard of an imaginary character called The Disappointment Dragon who swoops down and breathes more disappointment on disappointed children.  If you let him, he can make you feel worse – sad, angry and outraged.   There is also the Dragon of Hope though.  He likes to bring you up away from the Disappointment Dragon and he can help you by reminding you to sing, hum or distract your self. The DD hates singing and humming.  He flies away as soon as he hears a tune come out of a child’s mouth.”
  3. Model and reflect.

How is this useful?

By explaining disappointment you are teaching your children that they are not alone with their feelings.

It is reassuring to children not to be the only one who has ever felt disappointment.

Having management strategies to defeat disappointment is uplifting and teaches children to be resilient of difficult situations.

~ SM

Al-Ghani, K.I. (2013).  The disappointment dragon.  United Kingdom: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.