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?

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Follow Hey Sigmund on Instagram

Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
.
.
.
#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
.
.
#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This