When dealing with the cancellation of long awaited plans, kids will react completely reasonably, and then blissfully go about their day as if nothing happened.
Kidding! They’ll probably lose it.
No matter what age you are, cancelling something you’ve been looking forward to, stinks. And your child is likely to feel some pretty BIG emotions. Can you blame them? In the past few months, any sense of normalcy has gone out the window, which is incredibly off-putting for children. Kids need constancy in their life to feel safe and secure. And while many of us have tried to develop new routines to get us through this very, very weird time, there’s no sugar-coating the fact that some things just aren’t possible right now.
So. How do you explain to a child that their friends can’t come to their birthday party this year? Or that they won’t be road-tripping it to grandma and grandpa’s this summer? Here are a few suggestions to help temper their disappointment, and try to make the best out of the situation.
Acknowledge your little ones big feelings
If your kid is feeling sad or angry, listen to them and acknowledge their feelings. Phrases like “don’t cry” or “don’t be sad,” even when they’re said with the best intentions, can cause kids to go on the defensive. But letting them know that you hear them is a good first step. Simply saying; “it sounds like you’re really sad” gives them a chance to open up, respond, and hopefully start to work through their feelings.
Give them a safe space
If your child is still having a hard time, or can’t shake the sads just yet, give them a safe space to chill out. Make a little pillow fort or “cozy corner” someplace quiet, with pillows, blankets, stuffies and books, and maybe even a snack or two. A little me-time can do wonders for everyone. Also, forts are awesome.
Give them a choice
Once the immediate feelings of disappointment have subsided, let your kiddo choose something fun to do. Familiarity equals comfort, so perhaps they’d like to watch their favourite movie for the billionth time! Or (winky wink) play Sago Mini World? OR EAT ALL OF THE COOKIES! Maybe veto that last one, but you get the picture.
Do. Something. Else.
While it’s important to acknowledge and accept your child’s feelings, you also don’t want them to wallow. Try taking their mind off things by doing a fun project together. Maybe you could write little notes to deliver to nearby friends, or paint colourful rocks and leave them around the neighbourhood to spread a little cheer. Or, if a cancelled birthday party has got your kiddo down, see if they want to plan their own mini-bash! Who’s up for a dino-fairy-digger-rainbow-puppy party!? That’s right… you are. Hope you’ve been working on those crafting skills!
When it comes down to it, there’s no doubt about it; cancelled plans stink. And helping your child work through their feelings can be messy. But acknowledging disappointment, offering support, and giving them a choice in how they’d like to move forward, will go a long way in helping your little person work through their big feelings.
And who knows, maybe they’ll enjoy that dino-fairy-digger-rainbow-puppy party soooo much, that you’ll get to do it again next year! But with alllllll their little friends… gulp…