Helping children deal with disappointment is a necessary life skill in which we, as parents, need to be involved.

Having two GREAT children of my own who have been achievers on several fronts has brought its fair share of moments of disappointment. As my kids continue to develop their God-given skills in areas like sport and academics, they face competition and hurdles of many kinds (not the least of which my son’s Type1 Diabetes) – and experience real disappointments along the way, along with the joys of success.

Cricket World Cup Disappointment

We have a superb Protea cricket squad currently competing at the World Cup. Our team contains one of the top bowling attacks and batting line-ups of all countries participating. And yet we somehow struggle again to put the extensive training and preparation into successful winning on the World Cup stage.

I, along with so many couch-based cricket experts, am feeling hugely disappointed in the performances of our SA team. How can they fail the way they have? Why can’t they get it right on the day?

I am gutted…

But I also really feel for the parents of our Protea stars. Imagine for a moment the emotions of the Moms and Dads of our stars who wince in pain and embarrassment at every dropped catch, every mistimed shot, every unnecessary runout, every wide bowled. Perhaps even feeling it more deeply than the players themselves.

Apart from the years of extra coaching paid for, or the hours spent shouting encouragement (or instruction!) from the boundary rope or side-line, or the hundreds of kilometres spent driving Mom’s taxi to schools across the city, we (parents) know the strengths and weaknesses of our little darlings intimately. We know what makes them tick. We know when they need the bathroom twice before the competition. We know to check that their laces are tied with double knots. We know to bring the energy bar.

Sometimes they succeed, but often they fail.

Caring Through Thick and Thin

We care! And the Bible has excellent examples of Dads and Moms who helped their kids bounce back from moments of extreme failure and disappointment.

Consider for a moment the example of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). After the younger adolescent son has gone out and blown the family riches and reputation, we find a Dad welcoming him back with a huge hug. He kits him out with the best gear and gets ready the mother-of-all-parties in celebration.

Scripture doesn’t share the detail, but can you imagine the range of emotions that Dad had been through throughout this story? Surprise. Confusion. Anger. Despair. Compromise. Guilt. Loneliness. Rejection. Ridicule. Uncertainty. Grief. Longing. Compassion. Love. Acceptance. Joy. Contentment.

I’m not sure which of the Dad’s words came to the son at his moment of deepest despair, but it is quite likely he remembered something from his early “training” from his Dad or Mom. “It’s never too late to start again, my boy.”

After all that transpired, this Dad still cared, wow!

Resilient Kids

I’m sure our Protea team is going to bounce back! They have proved it in the past, and I remain a proud supporter.

But as with our Proteas and the Prodigal, we all need the right people around us to welcome us back, to restore hope and faith in us. As my better half says, “In times of disappointment we lean on our parents, and this teaches us to lean on our heavenly Father. Disappointments bring us closer to understanding our frailties and our dependence on God. So we should celebrate these!”

I am a firm believer in the role sport can play.

Encouraging sport participation brings excellent opportunities to learn about winning and losing. Kids learn how to be disciplined and to train, to be prepared, to have the right gear, to have a strategy, to be part of a team, to play according to the rules, to show sportsmanship and to accept defeat.

Our kids have to experience disappointment and failure and learn to bounce back.

Adults like you and I need to get them out there. The task of helping kids learn vital life skills is a huge responsibility!

Resilient Parents

In my experience, one of the best ways to strengthen resilience in our kids is to role model it ourselves. That means we need to be out there ourselves, on the sports fields, in nature, active in our communities. WE DO IT TOGETHER; it’s our way of life, it’s our family’s branding! When we hurt as parents, our kids see it; they see us as REAL people who can take knocks and bounce back.

It’s never too late to start sport as an adult. Believe it or not, there are many around you also longing to dust off their tennis racquets, or lace up their running shoes or to go for a hike.

As we learn to handle personal injuries, we can help our kids to do the same. As we forget to keep our eye on the ball, we know what’s it’s like to have regained focus. As we squeeze into our Lycra and perform in front of a crowd, we learn to ignore embarrassment and push out the “noise” factor. As we succeed in pushing ourselves, perhaps getting a PB race time, or klapping a better opponent, we demonstrate how to go further. We develop our resilience, character and credibility!

Young people need us, despite how “adult” and “independent” they may wish to appear.

A Solid Foundation

Let’s step out in faith! We are secure in the knowledge and experience of the Father’s love for us (Ephesians 3:14-20). We have a good Dad, the best Dad in the world – and He’s rooting for us, He’s praying for us, He is in us. Let’s entrust our ways to Him.

And so we can be there for others, especially kids close to us. They need to learn to walk in confidence in Jesus and get up when they fall. Proverbs 24:16 challenges us: “Though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.”

Faf du Plessis (Protea Captain) agrees: “Initially it was hard to grasp the concept of giving your career and performance over to God. I had to learn to trust Him in whatever happens on the field, whether that results in success or failure. But now, as I have grown in my faith and knowledge of God’s sovereignty, I truly believe that He has put me here for a reason. I have a purpose in Him.”

What do we have to fear?

Be someone who helps others through moments of disappointment!