First, my son was not invited to a birthday party of a boy that he considered his friend. They played together for the past three years and have been in each other’s classes as well. My son likes the kid, and they talk occasionally at school although they do not have the same teacher this year.
My son was a little surprised that he wasn’t invited to his birthday party but seemed to get over it quickly. He mentioned it in passing and then never brought it up again, so I let it go.
Then my daughter experienced a rejection of her own recently. She had somewhat of a hard time handling it, but it was a great learning experience for her.
Her school puts on a play for each grade every year, and they are required to try out. This year she was determined to have a speaking part. After all, she is a budding actress who is dying to be on television (her words, not mine).
On the day of tryouts, her class was rushed through the process at the end of the day. Each child was supposed to get to choose two parts to try out for. She chose a part that typically goes to the boys but she knew she could do a good job on it so she gave it a shot. I am pretty sure she didn’t stand a chance, but I never told her that.
She tried out for that part, and they ended auditions without letting her try out for the second part. She was given a part in the chorus, and she was a little upset. The problem was she told me a few days before the play and there was nothing that I could do or say at that time. (Honestly I am not sure what I would have done had she told me right away, but at least I could have thought a little about it.)
The play was great, and she was wonderful. When I asked her if everything was okay, it was clear that she was thrilled with her performance and she said that it was a great night. She never brought up the rejection again.
With these two stories of rejection in my head, I talked to Devra Gordon Renner, MSW and author of Mommy Guilt: Learn To Worry Less, Focus on What Matters Most and Raise Happier Kids. She had some good advice for moms and dads who aren’t quite sure what to do when their kid experiences rejection: “Rejection is one of those life lessons we wish our kids did not have to learn, and it seems as if they are experiencing social rejection at younger and younger ages. An important part of teaching our kids how to handle rejection is that we consider the age of the child and their social acumen. What we as a parent might think is a really big rejection might be minor to our child, or vice versa: We think it’s not a big deal, and it turns out our child is devastated.”
Devra says that “measuring your own response helps, as does asking open-ended questions that reflect, not assume, how a child may feel.” So you can let your child know that you notice how they are feeling and ask them about it. For example, you can ask something like: “So you mentioned you weren’t invited to the party, I see tears in your eyes” or “It can be really disappointing to be the only one not invited, but you’re smiling, so maybe you’re okay with it?” According to Devra, these types of responses open up discussion rather than shut it down with an ‘I don’t know’ or an ‘I don’t care.’ If your child meets you with an ‘I don’t know,’ you can always follow up with, ‘But if you did know, how would you answer?'”
Here are tips for teaching your kid how to deal with rejection:
1. Let them face the rejection. Since rejection is a part of life, letting your child face rejection at one time or another is both healthy and realistic. “Sometimes, kids need time to process how they feel about a rejection,” Devra says. “It’s okay to give them time. Similarly, it is okay to give yourself time to sort out how you might feel about it before speaking to your child about it. Many times we jump into ‘Save’ mode and then realize later we could have looked longer before we emotionally leaped.”
2. Listen and comfort. Sometimes kids just want to vent and be heard. Be a shoulder to lean on. Pass the tissues. Do whatever your child needs to get through this experience (within reason).
3. Keep your emotions in check. It would have been easy with both my son and daughter for me to get angry or upset for them but that would have helped no one. The mama bear instinct kicks in, and I want to right all of the perceived wrongs that my children face or hunt down the person who has wronged my child. But sometimes rejection is a battle your kids have to learn to face themselves.
4. Make a list of the good things. “When one of my kids is feeling like a loser, we go around at dinner time and everybody says something that they admire about the child in question,” shares Kadi Prescott, mother of 7 and social media maven. “It is important for kids to learn how to focus on the positive in life. Everybody is dealt some bum hands, but the truly successful people know that as long as they stay focused on the positive, they will eventually find success and a happier tomorrow. Divert their attention from the negative to the positive and your child will be able to handle the bum hands with dignity and grace.”
5. Set the example. Nothing is worse than a parent pitching a fit when they did not get something they wanted. It is up to us as parents to be the example for our children that we want them to emulate. “Be the example of how to properly deal with rejection and let downs,” Kadi says. “If they see a parent pitch a fit or act like a jerk every time life deals them a bum hand, they will model the behavior.”
6. Learn from this experience. This applies to both your child and yourself. In my daughter’s case, she wished that she had spoken up and at least told me or her teacher what had happened. This is a great lesson for her for next time.
7. Know when you should get involved. This is something that only you can decide. In some cases, you absolutely need to let your child work it out himself. Like with the birthday party, for instance. In my opinion, going to the mother and asking for my son to be invited would have been the wrong thing to do. However, in my daughter’s case, I wish that I would have talked to her teacher as soon as she had the tryout.
HOW DO YOU HELP YOUR CHILD DEAL WITH REJECTION? Tell us in the comments!
Read more from Stacie on her blog: The Divine Miss Mommy.
Photo Courtesy of Morguefile