Helping Kids Combat Rejection & Stay Mentally Strong

Rejection isn’t easy to deal with for anyone. Studies of brain scans have found that rejection activates similar patterns in areas of the brain as that of physical pain, which is a shocking thing to contemplate. Is it any wonder we will do anything to avoid it, even if it limits our lives and opportunities? When anxiety is a factor that avoidance may be even more extreme.

Unfortunately, those limits can have a real impact on what happens to us over time. Learning to overcome that impulse is a big part of what it means to take risks and live life to the fullest. But wouldn’t it be so much better if we could learn that skill from an early age and incorporate it into our day to day before we become adults?

“Rejection can disappoint you, depress you and may even stop you in your tracks… learn not to take rejection so personally… if you’re honest with yourself and believe in your work, others will too.” -Bev Jozwiak

The 3 Lessons We Can Teach Our Kids About Rejection

We can learn a lot from rejection – more so than anything we could learn from success. But the trick is regularly reminding ourselves not to stew in the upset of failure.

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” -Zig Ziglar

Here are 4 life-changing lessons we can learn from moments of rejection:

Lesson #1 – Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

Stress is toxic and not just to adults. Children can have their development permanently impacted by chronic stress, an alarming fact indeed. Unfortunately, teenagers in particular are under more pressure now than ever before. Everything from the high cost of tuition, to the difficulty of finding their niche, or just plain old insecurity caused by puberty and a social media culture that pushes young people to constantly compare themselves to others mean they are facing an uphill battle every day.

It is easier said than done, but it is important to teach our kids not to sweat the small stuff. Those little aggravations can add up to a lot of irritation by the time they get back from school. Showing them that it is good to laugh them off and move on will be a lifelong habit that will help them throughout their entire life.

“True happiness comes not when we get rid of all of our problems, but when we change our relationship to them, when we see our problems as a potential source of awakening, opportunities to practice, and to learn.” -Richard Carlson

Lesson #2 – Know That Rejection Now Doesn’t Mean Rejection Later

When I was in high school there was this competition for publication that I desperately wanted to win. I worked myself to the bone on an essay which I then submitted. I was sure I would get one of the coveted spots. Needless to say, when I got a rejection letter thanking me for my submission but declining to publish, I was crushed.

I almost didn’t submit again. But my parents and teachers really rallied for me, pushing for me to submit for the next round that would be happening later that year. Second time around I won the spot and achieved a dream I’d had.

Just because rejection happens in the moment doesn’t mean it will always be the case.

“You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.” – Johnny Cash

Lesson #3 – Rejection is an Opportunity for Evaluation

Sometimes rejection isn’t a chance to try again, but to stop and consider our priorities and what we really want. Say you ask out a date to homecoming  and they turn down your proposal. Yes, it hurts. This part is undeniable. But will obsessing over the rejection change the outcome? Not at all. Maybe you should stop and consider why you were rejected. Then consider if that matters at all. Critically thinking through the situation allows you to come to finite conclusions as well as solutions. Now it’s time to pick yourself back up and try again.

“Winning is great, sure. But if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday. “ -Wilma Rudolph


About the Author: Cindy Price

Cindy Price is a Northern Utah wife, mom, and writer. She has 15 years experience writing educational content in the many areas of parenting, with an emphasis on teen-related issues, from which she applies and expounds on her personal experience raising three teenagers. You can find Cindy on Twitter.

 

One Comment

kate

There are aspects to this article that leave me feeling very uncomfortable, as though it is somewhat removed from the experiences children and teenagers go through in experiencing rejection.

“It is easier said than done, but it is important to teach our kids not to sweat the small stuff. Those little aggravations can add up to a lot of irritation by the time they get back from school. Showing them that it is good to laugh them off and move on will be a lifelong habit that will help them throughout their entire life” – this sounds more like an avoidance strategy rather than “sitting with” a child’s experience. When we just sit with another’s experience instead of trying to teach them to “move on” this will give them the knowledge that their cares are important. I would not be wanting to teach my child to laugh off rejection – I’ve never personally as an adult laughed off rejection. There are stages of where it hurts and then you later rationalize it in a way that is acceptable/productive. Children, developmentally can’t do that, which is why it’s important they feel heard instead of being taught how to react.

The idea of rejection now, doesn’t mean rejection later is important – but again, how is this to be meaningfully explained to a child, whose sense of time etc is still developing? How is this meaningful to them? It may feel meaningful to us, as adults, because we can understand it – but not necessarily to the developing mind.

“Say you ask out a date to homecoming and they turn down your proposal. Yes, it hurts. This part is undeniable. But will obsessing over the rejection change the outcome? Not at all. Maybe you should stop and consider why you were rejected. Then consider if that matters at all. Critically thinking through the situation allows you to come to finite conclusions as well as solutions.” – I would never ever ask a teenage girl why they were rejected by their crush…this sounds to me like it’s trying (unintentionally) to find fault with the girl to explain the rejection. And critical thinking while processing rejection and hurt, especially as a teenager is near impossible. Rather again – why not just “sit with” their experience, empathize and tell them that you understand their pain?

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During adolescence, our teens are more likely to pay attention to the positives of a situation over the negatives. This can be a great thing. The courage that comes from this will help them try new things, explore their independence, and learn the things they need to learn to be happy, healthy adults. But it can also land them in bucketloads of trouble. 

Here’s the thing. Our teens don’t want to do the wrong thing and they don’t want to go behind our backs, but they also don’t want to be controlled by us, or have any sense that we might be stifling their way towards independence. The cold truth of it all is that if they want something badly enough, and if they feel as though we are intruding or that we are making arbitrary decisions just because we can, or that we don’t get how important something is to them, they have the will, the smarts and the means to do it with or without or approval. 

So what do we do? Of course we don’t want to say ‘yes’ to everything, so our job becomes one of influence over control. To keep them as safe as we can, rather than saying ‘no’ (which they might ignore anyway) we want to engage their prefrontal cortex (thinking brain) so they can be more considered in their decision making. 

Our teens are very capable of making good decisions, but because the rational, logical, thinking prefrontal cortex won’t be fully online until their 20s (closer to 30 in boys), we need to wake it up and bring it to the decision party whenever we can. 

Do this by first softening the landing:
‘I can see how important this is for you. You really want to be with your friends. I absolutely get that.’
Then, gently bring that thinking brain to the table:
‘It sounds as though there’s so much to love in this for you. I don’t want to get in your way but I need to know you’ve thought about the risks and planned for them. What are some things that could go wrong?’
Then, we really make the prefrontal cortex kick up a gear by engaging its problem solving capacities:
‘What’s the plan if that happens.’
Remember, during adolescence we switch from managers to consultants. Assume a leadership presence, but in a way that is warm, loving, and collaborative.♥️
Big feelings and big behaviour are a call for us to come closer. They won’t always feel like that, but they are. Not ‘closer’ in an intrusive ‘I need you to stop this’ way, but closer in a ‘I’ve got you, I can handle all of you’ kind of way - no judgement, no need for you to be different - I’m just going to make space for this feeling to find its way through. 

Our kids and teens are no different to us. When we have feelings that fill us to overloaded, the last thing we need is someone telling us that it’s not the way to behave, or to calm down, or that we’re unbearable when we’re like this. Nup. What we need, and what they need, is a safe place to find our out breath, to let the energy connected to that feeling move through us and out of us so we can rest. 
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But how? First, don’t take big feelings personally. They aren’t a reflection on you, your parenting, or your child. Big feelings have wisdom contained in them about what’s needed more, or less, or what feels intolerable right now. Sometimes it might be as basic as a sleep or food. Maybe more power, influence, independence, or connection with you. Maybe there’s too much stress and it’s hitting their ceiling and ricocheting off their edges. Like all wisdom, it doesn’t always find a gentle way through. That’s okay, that will come. Our kids can’t learn to manage big feelings, or respect the wisdom embodied in those big feelings if they don’t have experience with big feelings. 
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We also need to make sure we are responding to them in the moment, not a fear or an inherited ‘should’ of our own. These are the messages we swallowed whole at some point - ‘happy kids should never get sad or angry’, ‘kids should always behave,’ ‘I should be able to protect my kids from feeling bad,’ ‘big feelings are bad feelings’, ‘bad behaviour means bad kids, which means bad parents.’ All these shoulds are feisty show ponies that assume more ‘rightness’ than they deserve. They are usually historic, and when we really examine them, they’re also irrelevant.
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Finally, try not to let the symptoms of big feelings disrupt the connection. Then, when calm comes, we will have the influence we need for the conversations that matter.
"Be patient. We don’t know what we want to do or who we want to be. That feels really bad sometimes. Just keep reminding us that it’s okay that we don’t have it all figured out yet, and maybe remind yourself sometimes too."
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 #parentingteens #neurodevelopment #positiveparenting #parenting #neuronurtured #braindevelopment #adolescence  #neurodevelopment #parentingteens
Would you be more likely to take advice from someone who listened to you first, or someone who insisted they knew best and worked hard to convince you? Our teens are just like us. If we want them to consider our advice and be open to our influence, making sure they feel heard is so important. Being right doesn't count for much at all if we aren't being heard.
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Hear what they think, what they want, why they think they're right, and why it’s important to them. Sometimes we'll want to change our mind, and sometimes we'll want to stand firm. When they feel fully heard, it’s more likely that they’ll be able to trust that our decisions or advice are given fully informed and with all of their needs considered. And we all need that.
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 #positiveparenting #parenting #parenthood #neuronurtured #childdevelopment #adolescence 
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"We’re pretty sure that when you say no to something it’s because you don’t understand why it’s so important to us. Of course you’ll need to say 'no' sometimes, and if you do, let us know that you understand the importance of whatever it is we’re asking for. It will make your ‘no’ much easier to accept. We need to know that you get it. Listen to what we have to say and ask questions to understand, not to prove us wrong. We’re not trying to control you or manipulate you. Some things might not seem important to you but if we’re asking, they’re really important to us.❤️" 
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#neurodevelopment #neuronurtured #childdevelopment #parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting

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