Bombay School - Our Best Always - Ake Runga - Years 0 to 8

Coping with the disappointment of not being named as a School Leader of Bombay School ( Suggestions for Parents ) 

Based on advice from  Dr. Roni Cohen-Sandler - clinical psychologist - adapted for this context.

Although dealing with disappointment is an important and inescapable part of childhood, one of the hardest things for parents is seeing students fall short of their goals. Not only does it hurt parents to see them feeling sad, disappointed, or rejected, but also it’s challenging to know how to help them. Yet our response as parents, and the lessons it teaches our children, is vital to their development. Typically, life gives us plenty of opportunities and one such occasion is the selection of school leaders at Bombay School.

How we respond powerfully shapes the way our children process these experiences, feel about themselves, and make future decisions.

When student leaders are announced, the ripples are on a continuum of strong support or equally strong disapproval depending on ones own perspective and bias.  In many cases, the news send families reeling and reaction can vary from circling the wagons to writing to the principal, to taking to social media to vent or to calling other parents to gain support.

Mothers and fathers report feeling "awful” or sick,” "unable to sleep,” and withdrawing from people to avoid having to talk about it. 

These initial reactions to disappointment are perfectly normal and understandable. 

By acknowledging our feelings, we are modelling for our children that it is okay to be upset and distressed when they don’t get what they believe they deserve. And then we all have to move on.

The Healing Process

Since disappointments are inevitable life experiences, it is important for students to know how to cope well. What does that mean? 

Firstly to allow themselves to have genuine emotional reactions, which often tell them important information about themselves and their goals. 

Then they must get up, brush themselves off, and go on to their next endeavour. Throughout this process, young people can develop resiliency and adaptability. Here are some ways parents can contribute:

1. Understand how the school selects school leaders. This process begins the year before the announcement. Teachers begin looking at how prospective leaders contribute to school life. They consider how proactive students are and how often they show their initiative. Contexts for this could be assemblies, mini gala's and calf club.  Toward the end of the year, the out going leaders are asked for their input. They vote is noted and it informs the decision that will be made by the end of term 1 the following year.  Then at the start of the year teachers begin weekly recordings of student's contributions to the running of the school.  Students are closely observed and their contributions and participation in school events is noted and discussed. The principal also notes which students use their initiative and which students take the opportunities to serve others at school.  All senior school students are then asked to vote on their picks of student leader. This vote informs the decision making process. Then senior teachers meet and collate their data and shortlist candidates. This list is then taken to the full staff who are asked for their input as many of the teachers would have taught the seniors at some point and will be able to attest to their leadership ability and potential. Following that staff meeting the Assistant Principal and the Principal whittle the shortlist down to the final list, taking into account all data and gender representation.

2. Empathize with Children’s feelings, whatever they are. That way, they will feel heard, validated, and taken seriously. Focusing on our children’s emotions requires, however, that we can recognize and manage our own. Be sure to express that you’re proud of your children’s efforts. After all, if they never fall short of their goals, kids are probably aiming their sights too low.

3. Provide perspective. Communicate that the situation, however distressing, is not tragic. They will recover from their disappointment and find new opportunities. Besides, no school, premier team, or romantic partner is ideal. If they put their minds to it, they can thrive in many different situations. This is one of the most important lessons we get from disappointments and failures. But your kids will believe this message only when they sense that you are not devastated. Teens take their cues from their parents.

4. Be voices of reason. It is true that decisions sometimes are unfair. But rather than dwelling on unfortunate circumstances or blaming other people for their disappointments, guide Children to focus on what is within their control. Parents can convey that it’s time to regroup: "Okay, so now let’s think about other options...” Over time, this helps teens to broaden their thinking and develop creative problem-solving.

The Challenges

Like most parental approaches, these strategies are easier to suggest than to use. Parenting effectively when kids endure difficult disappointments has several prerequisites. If the parent-teen relationship is strong and mutually trusting, teens will be more inclined to hear what their parents say as neutral, helpful, and supportive.

If, however, kids don’t think their mothers and fathers can be objective, it will be more difficult to have comfortable, useful family conversations around these thorny issues. In my practice last week, I saw a high school senior who, after grieving for her many rejections, successfully shifted gears--well before her parents did. Frustrated, Lorrie needed her mother and father to get past their own anguish so they could help plan the college visits that would help her decide which school to attend.

Here are some signs that you need to do some reflection before you can be most helpful to your disappointed teen or tween:

1. You’re more invested in your child becoming leader than he/ she is.

2. Your child's dashed hopes remind you painfully of your own youthful disappointments.
3. When he/ she hears bad news, your child seems less disappointed than worried about how you’ll r
eact, and is overly anxious to make you proud.

When we are overly focused on our childs’ achievements in areas that were important to us in the past (e.g., academic, athletic), it is that much harder to separate their lives from our own. But this is key if we are to remain present and emotionally attuned to them at critical times ofdisappointmentsIt is unfair to allow children to be responsible for pleasing us or making us happy. 

If you child feels disappointed that they are failing you by not being selected as a school leader, it could be a sign that you are too invested and sending your child unintended messages.

Along with giving children opportunities to succeed, parents should also provide freedom for them to try for something and fall short. Then, we should be disappointed for them-not in them.

Paul Petersen

Bombay School
35 Paparata Road, Bombay 2675
P 09 236 1012 | F 09 236 0458 | E

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