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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When you can’t cut out (their worries), add in (what they need for felt safety). 

Rather than focusing on what we need them to do, shift the focus to what we can do. Make the environment as safe as we can (add in another safe adult), and have so much certainty that they can do this, they can borrow what they need and wrap it around themselves again and again and again.

You already do this when they have to do things that don’t want to do, but which you know are important - brushing their teeth, going to the dentist, not eating ice cream for dinner (too often). The key for living bravely is to also recognise that so many of the things that drive anxiety are equally important. 

We also need to ask, as their important adults - ‘Is this scary safe or scary dangerous?’ ‘Do I move them forward into this or protect them from it?’♥️
The need to feel connected to, and seen by our people is instinctive. 

THE FIX: Add in micro-connections to let them feel you seeing them, loving them, connecting with them, enjoying them:

‘I love being your mum.’
‘I love being your dad.’
‘I missed you today.’
‘I can’t wait to hang out with you at bedtime 
and read a story together.’

Or smiling at them, playing with them, 
sharing something funny, noticing something about them, ‘remembering when...’ with them.

And our adult loves need the same, as we need the same from them.♥️
Our kids need the same thing we do: to feel safe and loved through all feelings not just the convenient ones.

Gosh it’s hard though. I’ve never lost my (thinking) mind as much at anyone as I have with the people I love most in this world.

We’re human, not bricks, and even though we’re parents we still feel it big sometimes. Sometimes these feelings make it hard for us to be the people we want to be for our loves.

That’s the truth of it, and that’s the duality of being a parent. We love and we fury. We want to connect and we want to pull away. We hold it all together and sometimes we can’t.

None of this is about perfection. It’s about being human, and the best humans feel, argue, fight, reconnect, own our ‘stuff’. We keep working on growing and being more of our everythingness, just in kinder ways.

If we get it wrong, which we will, that’s okay. What’s important is the repair - as soon as we can and not selling it as their fault. Our reaction is our responsibility, not theirs. This might sound like, ‘I’m really sorry I yelled. You didn’t deserve that. I really want to hear what you have to say. Can we try again?’

Of course, none of this means ‘no boundaries’. What it means is adding warmth to the boundary. One without the other will feel unsafe - for them, us, and others.

This means making sure that we’ve claimed responsibility- the ability to respond to what’s happening. It doesn’t mean blame. It means recognising that when a young person is feeling big, they don’t have the resources to lead out of the turmoil, so we have to lead them out - not push them out.

Rather than focusing on what we want them to do, shift the focus to what we can do to bring felt safety and calm back into the space.

THEN when they’re calm talk about what’s happened, the repair, and what to do next time.

Discipline means ‘to teach’, not to punish. They will learn best when they are connected to you. Maybe there is a need for consequences, but these must be about repair and restoration. Punishment is pointless, harmful, and outdated.

Hold the boundary, add warmth. Don’t ask them to do WHEN they can’t do. Wait until they can hear you and work on what’s needed. There’s no hurry.♥️
Recently I chatted with @rebeccasparrow72 , host of ABC Listen’s brilliant podcast, ‘Parental as Anything: Teens’. I loved this chat. Bec asked all the questions that let us crack the topic right open. Our conversation was in response to a listener’s question, that I expect will be familiar to many parents in many homes. Have a listen here:
https://www.abc.net.au/listen/programs/parental-as-anything-with-maggie-dent/how-can-i-help-my-anxious-teen/104035562
School refusal is escalating. Something that’s troubling me is the use of the word ‘school can’t’ when talking about kids.

Stay with me.

First, let’s be clear: school refusal isn’t about won’t. It’s about can’t. Not truly can’t but felt can’t. It’s about anxiety making school feel so unsafe for a child, avoidance feels like the only option.

Here’s the problem. Language is powerful, and when we put ‘can’t’ onto a child, it tells a deficiency story about the child.

But school refusal isn’t about the child.
It’s about the environment not feeling safe enough right now, or separation from a parent not feeling safe enough right now. The ‘can’t’ isn’t about the child. It’s about an environment that can’t support the need for felt safety - yet.

This can happen in even the most loving, supportive schools. All schools are full of anxiety triggers. They need to be because anything new, hard, brave, growthful will always come with potential threats - maybe failure, judgement, shame. Even if these are so unlikely, the brain won’t care. All it will read is ‘danger’.

Of course sometimes school actually isn’t safe. Maybe peer relationships are tricky. Maybe teachers are shouty and still using outdated ways to manage behaviour. Maybe sensory needs aren’t met.

Most of the time though it’s not actual threat but ’felt threat’.

The deficiency isn’t with the child. It’s with the environment. The question isn’t how do we get rid of their anxiety. It’s how do we make the environment feel safe enough so they can feel supported enough to handle the discomfort of their anxiety.

We can throw all the resources we want at the child, but:

- if the parent doesn’t believe the child is safe enough, cared for enough, capable enough; or

- if school can’t provide enough felt safety for the child (sensory accommodations, safe peer relationships, at least one predictable adult the child feels safe with and cared for by),

that child will not feel safe enough.

To help kids feel safe and happy at school, we have to recognise that it’s the environment that needs changing, not the child. This doesn’t mean the environment is wrong. It’s about making it feel more right for this child.♥️

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