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disappointmentLots of the kids in our Social Adventures Groups have trouble dealing with disappointment.

They don’t like to lose.

They don’t like it when they can’t be first at an activity.

They don’t like it when a couple of kids raise their hands to answer a question and they don’t get called on.

In Teach the Concept of Gray with the Power of Maybe, I spoke of using  the power of “Maybe…”  for dealing with some of life’s randomness.

In this article, I will speak on the power of using, “Ah Shucks!” to help children deal with disappointment.

Introduce the Strategy

As is the case with most of the emotionally charged situations in our groups, we don’t usually get very far when we try to help kids use a strategy while we are in the moment.  If the children haven’t had ample opportunity to practice a strategy when the stakes aren’t high, it will be quite a challenge to get them to use the strategy without practice.

We introduce the “Ah Shucks!” strategy to help kids learn how to appropriately deal with disappointment through a game we like to call “Ah Shucks!” (Clever, aren’t we?).  Here’s how the game goes:

The Set Up

The set up for this game requires some customized dice.  We use an app on the iPad called, Make Dice.  We put a different child’s name on each of the six sides and we add our own if we don’t have enough kids in the group.

Before we got an iPad, we used to just tape the kids’ names onto a large blow-up die.  Sometimes, we would ask one of the Occupational Therapist’s to have a kiddo make a die out of construction paper.

The Introduction – Explain Disappointment

We introduce this game by discussing the times that we feel disappointment when we don’t win or get called on.  We acknowledge the fact that for some of us, we can feel REALLY sad or mad when disappointment rises to the surface.

Then, we remind the children that they have control over their bodies when they are feeling this way.  We teach the children that one of the things they can do when they feel this way is to say something kind of silly, like “Ah Shucks!”.

We move around the group of children encouraging them to generate more sayings that might work.  They usually come up with “oh man”, “oh rats”, “oh bummer” and the like.  I often like to throw in my personal favorite, which is “aaargh!”.

Warm Up 

Next, we tell the kids that we are going to play a turn-taking game.  Our favorite group game to play is animal charades.  Animal charades is a favorite because it gives us a chance to get kids moving, to work on nonverbal skills and body language.  However, any turn-taking game will work.

Game Time – Full of Potential Disappointment

Finally, we advise each of the children that they will take a turn rolling the dice.  However, they won’t get to take a turn with charades unless their name comes up on the rolled die – potential for disappointment.

If the die has someone else’s name, the child is allowed to say “Ah Shucks!” or whatever saying they like best.  Next, they can tell their friend in the group that it is their turn.

What we find is that the game becomes more about using the sayings and less about who gets a turn and when.  We surprisingly discover that the kids who usually have the hardest time handling disappointment are able to wait through many turns without difficulty.

Strategy into Action

In one of our Social Adventures Group of 6 year-olds, the children had such difficulty with lining up for transitions that we have had to resort to a line-up system.  In this system, each child has the same place in line for an entire activity.  They move to the next spot in line for the next activitity and so on.

While this has helped them (and us) manage transitions better, we still want to help them be more flexible with transitions.  After we played the “Ah Shucks!” game a few times, we offered the children a challenge.

We told them that for the next transition, they could each choose to keep their place in line or we could roll the die to determine the line order.  As expected, the more flexible kids took the challenge and the others didn’t.

We honored each child’s request.  We only rolled the die for the places in line that weren’t already taken by the kids who didn’t want to roll the die.  As the weeks went on, we continued to offer them this choice.  To our surprise, more and more of the children were willing to go with the die.  Now, lining up to switch activities is a much more pleasant part of our social skills group.

Uh oh, I just got a text that one of my kids is sick.  That means I can’t go out with my friend tonight… AAARGH!!