Rejection can be an extra sensitive experience for teens. Whether it’s a low grade in a class, negative responses from potential prom dates, or simply not feeling accepted by peers, teens can be vulnerable to rejection.
Typically, adolescence is characterized by discovering a sense of self, which is partly cultivated by achieving certain goals and being seen for those achievements. When reaching a desired goal is blocked, the result might be frustration, in addition to an injured sense of self and feelings of unworthiness, shame, and powerlessness.
One of the most important tasks of parents is to help their teen develop a strong sense of self. Help them feel accomplished, proud, and happy with who they are. In fact, those moments when a teen is experiencing rejection are great opportunities for teaching them about resiliency, self-acceptance, and self-confidence.
In most cases, when teens feel proud of themselves, they develop a natural assertiveness. In other words, they believe that their feelings, ideas, and opinions matter. Because they feel this is true for them, they tend to feel the same way towards others. And this gives them the ability to listen to others’ opinions with respect. Furthermore, those who are assertive are flexible. When they are faced with criticism, their self-confidence isn’t shaken or broken. They do not respond negatively to rejection because they have developed a strong sense of self. Teens who feel content with who they are also have the ability to respect the preferences of others. And it’s often the case because these teens have had experiences in the past in which their opinion, preferences and ideas were treated with respect.
There are a number of things that you can do to help your teen move past rejection. As already indicated, you can show your teen that his or her opinions are valued. You can develop his or her sense of self by asking for their opinions, thoughts, and ideas. You can encourage their creativity and imagination. Of course, expressing your love and affection is important, even though some teens might communicate that he or she has grown past that.
When teens feel appreciated and loved, they can face rejection from peers, teachers, or others with resiliency. However, those teens who are very sensitive to criticism and rejection might, in turn, worry about pleasing others, being liked, or whether others will agree or disagree with their opinions. They might be easily hurt, likely because their ideas and opinions were rejected in the past.
Of course, another way to help your teen move past rejection is to model what it’s like to be confident. Teens are still absorbing a great deal of what their parents say and do. In fact, most children notice the small details of the lives of adults around them. They are sponges for life, often mimicking what they see in the people in their environment. Although teens are older, they too are still absorbing ways to behave, think, and feel. Because adolescence is a pivotal time of developing a sense of self and cultivating a clear identity, those moments of rejection can be an incredibly important time to discuss what it means to have a strong sense of self.
Interestingly, research born out of studying the effects of physical and emotional bullying is enlightening. For instance, a 2006 study of 380 students from ages five to 11 years old found that children rejected by their peers are more likely to withdraw from classroom activities and suffer academically. Peer rejection was the strong predictor, according to this study, of a child’s academic success.
Certainly, peer rejection can play a pivotal role in the mental well being of a teen. However, with the right coaching from parents, modeling from adults, and consistent praise for a teen’s achievements and talents, rejection doesn’t have to be an experience that gets in the way of an adolescent’s happiness.