By Allison Amy Wedell
I think it’s safe to say that two of the dominant pandemic-induced emotions we’re experiencing are frustration and disappointment. There are so many things we can’t control, so many things we’re missing. I feel frustrated that I can’t protect my mom, who is more vulnerable to this virus than most, and that many of my closest friends have lost their livelihoods to the pandemic. I feel disappointed that I can’t hug many of the people I love and that we’ve had to cancel exciting trips and events.
Both frustration and disappointment stem from a lack of control. So if I’m feeling those emotions, I can bet that my daughter is feeling them that much more keenly. In Step Back from Frustration, author Gill Hasson describes frustration in several ways. The one that resonates most with me is that frustration feels like you can see where you want to go, but you just can’t quite get there. I can’t think of a better description for distance learning. My daughter’s teachers are doing their best, and she is absolutely learning. But she wants so desperately to be with her friends—she can see them on her screen during class—and is so frustrated that she can’t.
Hasson’s Get Unstuck from Disappointment contains similar themes. Disappointment feels like being sad, let down, or even angry—that things are not fair. Sound familiar? There is absolutely nothing fair about this pandemic, about having to worry about older relatives, about missing plays and concerts.
To get off the “hamster wheel” of frustration that Hasson describes, my daughter and I have unwittingly used a lot of the same tactics listed in the book. We use deep breathing to calm down, and I send her out to the backyard to blow off steam. Hasson suggests a good cry too, and that’s a strategy my daughter and I both employ. I’ve always made a point of letting my daughter see me cry, because I want her to understand that crying is a healthy, normal way for people to express their feelings.
Where disappointment is concerned, Hasson suggests (among other tactics) thinking about positive things, having a “Plan B,” and focusing on what you have. Despite the cold winter where we live, I do manage to set up the occasional outdoor, masked, socially distanced hangout for my daughter and her best friend. It’s not a sleepover with movies and shared popcorn, but our Plan B is still fun. And focusing on what we have can be a joy-inducing exercise. We feel lucky to have technological platforms that allow us not only to see our faraway family, but play games and watch movies with them too. It helps us manage our disappointment at not being able to do those things in person.
I think the most compelling frustration management tactic in Hasson’s book is letting it go. “When you can’t change the situation, try to let go.” Oof. It’s easier said than done, of course, but there’s something to be said for refusing to waste energy on a situation you can’t change. My daughter and I talk often about the things we can do—wearing masks, limiting outings, washing our hands—and try to focus less on the things we can’t do—going back to school and hugging our friends.
I’m grateful to be able to acknowledge the feelings this pandemic induces. The emotion management tactics I’m learning help me help my daughter cope, yes—but they help me too. And in a pandemic, that is no small thing.
Step Back from Frustration and Get Unstuck from Disappointment are part of the Kids Can Cope series from Free Spirit Publishing. These inviting picture books offer kids a wide range of practical strategies they can use to cope with difficult feelings and situations, such as anger, worry, teasing, and jealousy. With gentle humor, charming illustrations, and kid-friendly advice—plus additional information for children and adults at the back of each book—the Kids Can Cope series gives kids the tools they need to face challenges.
Allison Amy Wedell is a writer, editor, and mom whose diverse work focuses on sexual abuse prevention, bullying prevention, social and emotional learning, public safety, and theater/acting. She is the author of Shaking Hands with Shakespeare: A Teenager’s Guide to Reading and Performing the Bard (Simon & Schuster, 2004), and her work has been featured here and at babycenter.com, MomsRising.org, and Committee for Children. You can find her on LinkedIn.
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