The Gift of Unhappiness


When I was eight years old, my friend was invited to a neighborhood birthday party and I wasn’t. There was ice cream cake and the promise of a piñata. I was devastated.

My parents could have asked the neighbors to invite me. They could have sent me along to the party uninvited. They could have come up with a special afternoon so that I would be distracted during the party.

But they didn’t do any of these things. My parents let me experience this disappointment without intervening. That night before bedtime, my mother sat down and talked with me about my hard afternoon, but that was it.

What my parents did that day was very important. Here’s why.

I speak with many parents who go to great lengths to help their children avoid disappointment, stress, and adversity. I understand this instinct.

But by doing so, they are unintentionally shielding their child from learning opportunities. A child who has been protected from unhappiness may have trouble dealing with disappointment as a child and as an adult. Coping with disappointment is key to a successful, balanced life.

As a parent, take the time to teach your child how to deal with disappointment. It’s an incredible gift.

Instead of trying to prevent or “fix” difficulties for your child, be with them in their disappointment. Allow them to feel sad, left out, or angry. Let the moment happen and then talk to them about how to move forward. Resiliency is a valuable skill that will serve them well in childhood and adulthood.

“In order for children to learn how to do hard things, you have to let them go through hard times. There is no way to truly master something without experiencing it.” – Sara Bean, M.Ed., Elementary School Counselor

The Sara Bean quote above is from a great article, one that many parents have found helpful: Why Fixing Things for Your Child Doesn’t Help.

If you are working through similar experiences, feel free to share with the Empowering Parents community below. Or be in touch with our coaches if you need extra support.

Be well,

Darlene, Empowering Parents Coach


Darlene Beaulieu is a parent to two teenage daughters. She has been an Empowering Parents Coach since 2009 and has helped thousands of families in that time. She earned her Master’s Degree in Counseling and has worked in school and community settings helping children and families with academic, social, and behavioral issues.

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