Rejection is never easy. More difficult to handle, as a parent, is the rejection of your child. You feel responsible and take the rejection personally. You ask yourself, How did I fail as a parent? But even more, you ask yourself, What can I say or do to mend my child’s broken heart?
As a mother or father, you’re usually at a loss as to what to do in the face of your teen’s rejection. Being a teen is a complicated time in one’s life. Throw in a rejection, and your child’s self-esteem will dramatically decrease, even if you’re not aware of it. Here are few parenting suggestions to help your child get through the pain of rejection by developing their spirit, making them more adaptive, and strengthening their relationship with you.
Listen to your child vent (or cry). In the midst of crisis, there is nothing more important, simple and difficult for a parent to do than to listen intently and with compassion. Do your best not to give advice or judge. This is a time to offer a shoulder to cry on, a compassionate ear and a warm embrace. Leave the scorn, questioning and more-refined knowledge at the door. Although you know that this heartbreak and rejection is transitory, to your teen this feels like the end of the world. Just think back to a time when you felt rejected as a teen. Listening or allowing your son or daughter to cry, without expectation, is the most helpful first step any parent can take to help in the face of any sort of rejection, whether it be a broken heart, an “F” on a test or a “no” from his or her first-choice college. Take the time to listen. It’s that simple.
Help your child set individualized, forward-thinking goals. To get your child over this funk, think about forward momentum and small, measurable and attainable steps to attain those goals. Did your teen experience her first breakup? If so, plan a girls’ night in together with her best girlfriends for chick flicks, baking and decorating cookies or even a makeshift spa. Did your teen bomb a test? Set up a meeting with the teacher. Have your child ask for extra credit work, if possible. Get even more creative and create flash cards, “quizlets” and an outline for the next test. Is it a college rejection? Look into other options, whether it be an amazing backup school or a community college where, through hard work and dedication, she can transfer to the college of her dreams. With smart, realistic goals, your child will instantly feel uplifted and on the road to success, with their self-esteem in tow.
Focus on the good, the difference and the change. In every situation, you can refocus your teen’s thinking to something good and positive. Is there a change he or she can make in himself or herself, in the situation, or in the community? Focus your energy and your teens, on an area where they excel. Are they great at maintaining relationships? Then throw a party. Perhaps they’re a natural athlete and play sports? Invite the whole family to their next game. Or try something new and take a cooking class together. If there is nothing positive to focus on, look at the difference the rejection has made. Most of the time, rejection makes us stronger, more empowered and better able to handle the ebbs and flows of life. Ask how this rejection has changed your teen or made them more prepared for life’s curve balls. If both of these tactics leave you wanting, try creating a shift! Ask your teen to volunteer with you to gain some perspective about life. It is near impossible as a young volunteer not to feel good, uplifted and full of gratitude. Giving back to your community will not only make you feel good, but open up their eyes, hearts, and minds.
Dealing with rejection is especially hard for the parent of a teen. Since your teen probably feels rejection more acutely than you do, it is imperative that as a parent you offer love, support and perspective. Listen intently, create goals, and focus on the positive to bump your teen’s self-esteem and create a more resilient young adult.
Katie Schellenberg is the founder and CEO of BeyondTutoring.com, an educational blog, and Learning Lab LA, a concierge and academic advocacy firm that attempts to create and cultivate lifelong success through learning.