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Re-frame Disappointing Situations


Social-Emotional Learning ^Extra-curricular/At-Home All Ages Strategy


Flexible Thinking Self-regulation Social Awareness

Re-frame Disappointing Situations

If your child gets very upset when things go wrong

How To Apply It!

  1. Seeing the positive aspects of an otherwise difficult situation is a learned skill and an important one in helping children develop a positive mindset.
  2. Always begin by acknowledging that the reality of the current situation. If it isn't great, say so. Children need to first understand that you see and understand their point of view. You can find more guidance on how to respect and validate feelings here.
  3. Identify the positive sides of the situation. Start with one. Maybe the game got rained out today, but perhaps your injured teammate will be available when this game gets rescheduled. After you suggest a positive, pause and let the child respond. Make sure your child truly sees the positive.
  4. If you get a negative response, suggest another positive. It might not be the time to try to be persuasive on any given point. Use your judgment. This might be more about modeling how to find positive aspects to a difficult situation than it is about changing feelings in the moment.
  5. After your child acknowledges at least one positive, if you think he can handle it, prompt for more. "Is there anything else positive about this that I'm missing?" Send the message that he can (and needs to) do this type of thinking. Again, don't press and give your child the time he needs to respond.
  6. When he seems more cheerful, sum it up. Again acknowledge that the situation might be disappointing but that at least there were some positives that came out of it.
  7. Don't dwell on the situation once the child is feeling better. Move on to a different topic.
  8. Repeat as often as necessary, moving your child forward on developing this type of thinking independently.

Why It Works (the Science Of Learning)!

No situation is all bad. However, when we are feeling upset, negative emotions can spiral. Adults can help children take a step back to see something good in the situation. Children have varying dispositions, but it is important that they all learn to handle disappointing or difficult situations. With some coaching and maturity, children will begin to do this independently.