Rejection: It stings at any age, but teens in particular tend to take rejection very personally. Remember that teens tend to internalize and personalize rejection; while the reality might be that they didn’t make the team because they simply lack the experience that some of the other players have, for example, your teen is likely to take it as a personal affront. As a parent, it can be difficult to walk your teen through the process of overcoming rejection. Check out these tips on how to help your teen handle rejection.
Restrain Your Mama (or Papa) Bear
If someone hurts your baby’s feelings, even if your “baby” is old enough to drive, it’s natural for your hackles to go up. You might be tempted to badmouth the teacher who gave your child a poor grade on an essay or the no-good grungy kid who broke your kid’s heart. While this might be your first primal reaction, it’s important to step back and look at the situation more objectively. It’s very likely that your teen deserved the low grade and that his or her ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend simply lost interest, as teens are bound to do.
Keep in mind that joining your teen in his or her wallowing or anger is not going to help the situation. If anything, it will set a poor example for your teen in terms of how he or she should behave and handle rejection. Swallow your strong feelings and focus on supporting your teen rather than on denigrating the person who has caused your teen the heartache. Looking ahead with a positive mindset will set the tone and the expectation that things will get better after some time has passed.
Don’t Downplay Your Teen’s Emotions
Teens tend to experience their emotions very strongly. You know this if you have ever had your son stomp off and slam a door after being told that he needs to stay in and catch up on his math homework or if your daughter has ever burst into tears upon losing her cellphone charger. Experiencing rejection is something that adults have usually learned to handle, so your teenager’s crying or anger might seem over the top to you.
Rather than telling your teen that they should get over it, it’s better to empathize and help your teen handle rejection by giving your teen a safe place to vent. Let them talk about their feelings without you trying to talk them out of it. There is a limit on how much venting you should allow, of course; all conversations over the course of the next month should not revolve around your teen’s grief over not getting a part in the school play, but if he or she needs to pout and stomp around for a couple of days, go ahead and indulge that.
Encourage Your Teen to Stay Active
One of the best ways to bounce back after any type of setback is to gather up your gumption and get back in the game. For a teen who has been rejected by the soccer team, this might mean deciding to go out for cross-country or taking tennis lessons so they’ll be ready for the spring tennis tryouts. If your teen has gotten a bad grade, encourage him or her to study up for the next test, perhaps getting a tutor if necessary. A romantic breakup could be just what your teen needs to develop some other interests… maybe that cute classmate from French class might inspire your son or daughter to brush up on his or her French conjugations.
If nothing else, help your teen handle rejection by getting your teen out of the house on weekends and setting a time limit on brooding. Expect him or her to join in on family outings and activities (maybe a planned beach day or a trip to a nearby city on an upcoming weekend is just what all of you need) and encourage him or her to make plans with friends. While a couple of days of moping around might be in order, it’s important that your teen learn how to cope by turning his or her attention to something else for a while.
Focus on the Positive
Your teenager has a lot of great qualities that he or she might not be able to see once rejection occurs. If your child has been snubbed by friends, they might be doubting that they’re good at anything. Take some time to point out some of the positive attributes that you see in your teen. For instance, you can assure your teen of specific attributes that make him or her a good friend, such as a fun personality, a great listening ear, and the perfect blend of honesty and tact.
Also, be sure to congratulate your teen for taking a chance. Whether it was by entering a contest, trying out for a sport team, pursuing a romantic interest, or inviting a potential friend to go to the movies, putting his or her feelings on the line by taking a chance that could (and did) result in rejection deserves some recognition. You could even point out some famous people who succeeded after rejection, including some who experienced multiple rejections.
Seek Help if Necessary
Most of the time, teens who are rejected end up getting over their negative feelings and learn from the experience. Occasionally, however, a teen might get stuck on his or her situation and might have a hard time getting past and growing from the trauma. If your teen is showing symptoms of depression or anxiety, it is likely time to get in touch with a mental health professional who can help. Talk to his or her primary care physician and ask for a referral to a counselor who works with adolescents.
Shepherding your teen through the rough patches of adolescence can be difficult. However, if you encourage healthy behavior in your teen, focus on the positive, and reach out for help when needed, then you’ll likely be able to help him or her handle rejection and move past it. Teaching your child coping skills now will enable them to go through difficult situations as an adult, so embrace the chance have this opportunity now, while your teen is still living in your home.