I taught her how to cope with her disappointment
Seeing so many fellow parents getting anxious and excited to receive their children’s PSLE results (a compulsory streaming examination for twelve-year-old students in Singapore), I was reminded of how my daughter reacted to her PSLE results last year.
I remember vividly how proud I felt when I saw her name flash across the school hall screen for being the most improved student in the entire Primary Six cohort. My heart beamed for her because I knew how hard she had studied. However, instead of celebrating her outstanding progress, she went home and sobbed!
She had done extremely well but still missed a few points to qualify for her dream Secondary school. Her world came crashing down, pulling mine with hers. My husband and I were so proud of her achievement, but she was inconsolable. It was heartbreaking.
In my household, we encourage our daughters to be fully accountable for their studies, so the effort was entirely hers. Our role was to be her cheerleader, and we took care not to impose any expectations on her studies. But she held high expectations for her results and felt sorely disappointed.
Acknowledge and Embrace Our Feelings
Her disappointment and regret carried on to this year when she started studying in her new school. Her conscious mind just wanted to wallow in self-pity. My husband asked, “why don’t you just MAP her?” MAP Method™ is a mind-management tool I teach to help both kids and adults deal with challenges and improve their mindsets.
Of course, I did offer to MAP her but she refused. She sobbed every night until I recorded a MAP audio to guide her and that calmed her down instantly.
At the same time, I needed to deal with my complicated feelings.
My guilt yelled that I hadn’t helped her enough academically.
My disappointment complained how she was being ungrateful and fragile. Why would anyone be unhappy with being in the top 10% of the national cohort?! So I did MAP on myself to make peace with my feelings too.
Our Child’s Expectations Is Not Ours
My daughter aimed for the moon and got the stars. But she still yearned for the moon.
For the first few months in her new academic year, I accompanied her to school every day. This was my way of showing her that we (my husband and I) love her no matter what and we will always cheer her on. This may not be what she envisioned, but I believe every cloud has a silver lining.
Fast forward nine months later, she is now a happy teen who has aced her school year. She is passionate about creating journals and recently taught a study-skills workshop to younger primary school kids!
Like playing Nerf guns, sometimes we aim and we miss the target, but we pick up the foam darts, pull back the trigger in preparation, and we aim and shoot again. The more we practice and adjust our aim, the higher our chance of hitting the target. Sometimes we might experiment with different darts or upgrade to a better gun. Or maybe we just need a new target to aim for.
Academic examinations are part and parcel of school life, and sometimes we can feel disappointment. Know that it is okay to feel what you feel, and it is okay for your child to feel what she* feels. Let the tears come. You can sit next to her and hold her.
Sometimes we just need to hold our children a little longer until they are ready to step out strong again.
It’s definitely not the end of the world.
We might get disappointed that our foam dart didn’t hit the target. But we are empowered to adjust our tools and goals.
Sending much love to all. No matter tears of joy or sadness, embrace it all and continue to move forward in life.
*For ease of reading, I used the pronoun “she”.
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