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Dealing with frustration

Learning how to overcome frustrations is a vital strategy so that children can turn into mature adults with less fears. Losing a game, having low grades at school or even not having a toy which they want can leave a child feeling frustrated, a sensation that many people may believe is only experienced by adults.

Whilst no parent wants to see their child sad or in pain, it is necessary to understand that the child will endure these situations repeatedly throughout their lives, at different stages of their development, and that these situations are important steps in the formation of who that child will grow up to be. As parents, we must be there for our children, to guide them and support them as they learn to overcome their frustrations.

Talking with Psychologist Nora A. Suarez Kremer, I asked how we can best help our children:

When do children start having frustrations?

“A child’s first frustration begins from weaning. It is not only for the fact that the mother stops giving the baby her breast, but also when she stops feeding the baby close to her breasts. During this moment a child experiences frustration as they feel that they are no longer as important as before. However, it is important to know that this frustration, more than it being important, it is necessary, because it is the motor of desire, which every individual must have.”

What is the importance of learning to overcome the frustrations?

“Adults should help children overcome these frustrations. If the children are not taught how to overcome their frustrations it will bring consequences in the future. The consequences go from an organic level*, temperamental, and environmental. As they reach the adult age, if the first frustrations were overcome successfully, it will leave space for desire functioning: one would think ‘I need to overcome this frustration of not having what I want, so that I can desire something else.'”

When should we help our child to avoid disappointments and when shouldn’t we do so?

“Honestly, it is not a case of avoiding the frustrations of our child. If we are able to, we can help them prevent them. But the most important thing is giving them the necessary tools to anticipate a certain situation. Sometimes, a certain situation is painful, inevitable and thus happens, but if the child has the tools given by his parents of how to cope with a situation, the child will confront deception in another method. A more constructive method. The child will recognise the situation and will move on.”

What happens when children do not learn how to overcome frustrations?

“Children always learn how to overcome their frustrations, it is we, the adults, who think that they do not. For example, children utilise the cries and tantrums to get what they want: their object of desire; as they do not get what they want, provoke negative emotions and frustrations which exceed their capacity of being able to control them. There is a clash between your desire to be autonomous and the limitations of your own age. Children should not be underestimated. When we think that our child feels disappointed and after having cried, it seems as though he hadn’t passed through the frustration, but this is not the case. As a matter of fact, the child stops whingeing, because he realises that before this used to get his what he wanted, but now it is not like that and the child understands that he cannot have that certain thing. And in that place of frustration, in the emptiness, the child will encounter another object of desire.”

If it is important to teach children how to lose, is it also important to teach how to win?

“I would say that it is more important to teach how to win. The interesting part is that if we do not give them the possibility of losing, they will never win. We could not have recognised light, if there didn’t exist darkness, and vice-versa. We should always keep in mind that a child must develop a good self-esteem, this is, adults should help with their own actions so that our child’s self-esteem can be the highest and strongest possible, we should celebrate their triumphs and make sure they do not go unnoticed, since they live it as big frustrations when they are not recognised for their efforts. Parents should teach their children that even when they are not able to do something, they are capable of going through other more important, or just as important situations like that one.”

Psychologist Nora Alejandra Suarez Kremer holds a degree in psychology from the University of Buenos Aires (Argentina).

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