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Helping kids deal with disappointment during COVID-19 social distancing

A parenting expert offers tips for parents on how to help kids cope with social distancing and isolation.

PORTLAND, Ore. — With school canceled for the rest of the year in Oregon and Washington, along with activities and social events, kids and teens might be struggling to cope with disappointment.

Oregon State University parenting education specialist Shauna Tominey offered some tips for parents on how to help their children deal with all the emotions they might be experiencing.

The first step, according to Tominey, is to validate your child’s feelings.

“Acknowledge that what they're feeling is OK, rather than jumping to remind them that this is part of a bigger picture," she said. "That's helpful too, but it might leave them feeling minimized in terms of, these feelings aren't important right now. It's OK to carry those feelings of disappointment, while also thinking about how we're helpers in our community."

She recommends helping your children express their emotions through things like drawing, writing in a journal or listening to music. If they aren’t ready to talk with you, suggest they talk on the phone with a friend.

And be transparent about your feelings. As parents, we often feel the need to project only positive messages, which is helpful, but it’s also important to be vulnerable and honest about your stress too.

“We can teach our children a lot if we can say, 'I feel disappointed about that too.' It's hard for children to see that sometimes, but it lets them know those feelings are OK and even adults have those feelings," she said. "Also, let them know what you are doing to manage those feelings.”

Tominey recommends the Oregon Parenting Education Collaborative as a great place for resources and networking opportunities for parents.

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