Devastated and heartbroken

I read an article after the holidays about how the hot toy for the year wasn’t working properly after being opened by excited children on Christmas morning. You know…the toy that parents wait in long lines for and fight others to buy? One of those. There were some quotes in the article that gave me pause. (Actually, they made me roll my eyes in a judge-y way. Not nice, I know!)

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One parent said her child’s Christmas was absolutely ruined. Another said his child was devastated.

Ruined? Devastated? Really??

Sure, it’s disappointing to have a gift you are so excited about giving (or getting) not work on Christmas morning. I get that. But, there is something wrong when we over-validate feelings of devastation and doom over a broken toy. Kids are going to experience disappointment. We need to let that happen, and we need to be the grown-ups who are providing some perspective. Yes, we can empathize with them, but we need to help them understand that they are strong enough to handle it. And we need to help them understand that some things, in the context of life, are not worthy of feelings of devastation. Use these things as teachable moments to talk your kids about how to respond to adversity and the importance of resilience and grit.

When college students haven’t developed this perspective and resilience, they are “devastated” by the class that they couldn’t get into, the C they got on an exam, or by not getting a bid from their preferred Greek organization. IT happens all too often, and it’s not pretty. As we adults know, there are going to be things in life that truly are devastating and heartbreaking. Things that are traumatic and take time to process. We can teach our children early on how to understand the difference between a devastating event and a disappointing event. It’s not about minimizing their feelings. It’s about recognizing those feelings, putting the event into perspective, and talking about constructive ways to move forward. The practice will pay off in the form of strong, emotionally healthy kiddos!

About author


Lori Smith and Scott Smith are higher education professionals with a combined 30 years experience working with college students. We also happen to be married to one another and are raising our own potential future college student.

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