Easing a child's pain of letdown


December 25, 1990|By Barbara Turk

Santa Claus didn't treat your little one very well this year. What he/she most wanted he didn't receive. Perhaps it was a too-expensive present, or a cherished wish, such as having an absentee family member be there for Christmas.

You tried to tell him Santa might not bring what he wanted. But he believed Santa would, and now he's disappointed and disillusioned, wondering how Santa could have let him down. You feel terrible. What can you do or say to make things better?

It's hard to know your child is hurting and feels helpless to change things. Yet, while you can't take away his disappointment, talking things over with him can help to ease his pain:

*First, don't try to coax him out of his disappointment by enumerating all the good things he has, as that may make him feel guilty. Rather,

*Let him know you understand his feelings and that those feelings are acceptable. You might say, "It's very disappointing to hope for something so much and then not have it happen, isn't it?"

*Then, gently, discuss the reality -- that even wondrous beings like Santa can't make every wish come true. You might say, "It's always OK to hope for something that you really want. Many times it will happen, but sometimes it just doesn't."

Remember, lovingly helping him to accept the sad reality of occasional disappointments while affirming his right to hope is a gift you can give him that will last long after Santa is just a childhood memory.

Barbara Turk is a psychotherapist in private practice. She appears regularly on Maryland Public Television.

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