Courtesy: Elizabeth Wickham
Our kids are missing their friends, teams and schools due to COVID-19. Plus, they face uncertainty with swimming because in many areas pools have not reopened, teams can’t practice and swim seasons have been cancelled. How our kids are handling disappointment may vary from day to day and is challenging to say the least. It’s also stressful and worrisome for parents, too.
How we can help our kids with their reactions to events was explained in a recent webinar by David Benzel of Growing Champions for Life. In a talk called “Give Your Child Emotional Intelligence for Life,” he discussed that our emotional intelligence or EQ is more important than our IQ. He said that we are born with our IQ and can’t change it, but we can grow and improve our EQ.
Benzel explained why losing hurts our kids so much and why some kids hurt more than others. For example, say your kids are at a swim meet (don’t you wish?) and they lost their race. How do they react?
Using a pool analogy of different depths of water, he explained how kids react differently to losing. In the shallow end, Benzel said the child’s thoughts were “I didn’t perform.” This is something they can take action on and be ready for their next shot. In the middle depth of the pool, the example he used was “I didn’t win.” This child needs to change his goal. The goal shouldn’t be winning it should be learning. It’s impossible to lose if their objective is to gain experience and learn from it. In the deep end, the swimmer said, “I’m no good.” That is equating their person with how they perform. This is what makes losing so emotional and devastating to kids. The outcome of a race is only feedback at that moment, it’s not who they are.
Between the event of losing a race and our child’s reaction is the crucial element — the story they tell themselves. If the story is “I’m awful at swimming,” the next time up on the blocks they are going to be tentative and nervous. If the internal thoughts are “Wow, how did I DQ? That’s not like me,” they’ll come back more aggressively and determined.
Discussing this process with our children can help them understand that to have a different reaction they need to change the story they tell themselves. “My emotions come from my thoughts. I think my own thoughts. Therefore, I create my feelings and I’m responsible for them,” Benzel said.
Also, it’s important to remember that our children learn how to react from us. So we can all work on improving our inner voice to seek a higher EQ.
Having good conversations with our family during this time of uncertainty is important. We can be empathetic listeners to our children. They’re going through many disappointments such as missing their friends, teammates, competing, proms, etc. We can remind them that we shouldn’t worry about things out of our control, and we need to work on what we do control. Even though we can’t control what’s going on, let them know it’s okay to feel disappointed. Our children’s feelings are natural and justified. Use this time together to work on communication as a family and help your children develop better coping skills during times of adversity.
What are your thoughts about helping your kids find better ways to react when they are disappointed?
Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.