BY JAMIE LOBER
Jill Fenty is an eight year-old from Perry who was not invited to a classmate’s party. She had been friends with the birthday child for awhile, and she was devastated.
Her parents took the right approach, which is to be calm and then investigate what has happened. They happened to have a relationship with some of the other parents and asked if there were any issues that they might know about that could have caused the rejection. Jill’s parents also instructed her to ask one of her other friends why she was not invited and to understand that she may or may not get an answer and to graciously accept the results.
Casey Hale is a twelve year-old from Warner Robins. He tried out for the basketball team and did not make it. He was disappointed and could not face his friends. However, with his parents’ encouragement, he wound up choosing another sport—soccer—which he now loves. As his parents encouraged him to pursue even more interests, Casey even found that he had a gift for science. He began to see the rejection as a learning experience.
Your own child is sure to experience rejection if he has not already. As a parent, it is important to be prepared to soothe the sting. Don’t over react, but sympathize with your child, then teach her how to figure it out and how to then move on.
Kids should not deal with rejection alone. “Kids can best cope with rejection by having someone they trust to help them sort things out,” said Ron Hughley, social worker at Quality Directions in Macon. That person could be a parent, friend, teacher, or religious leader.
Do your child a favor and teach her ahead of time that rejection is a part of life from childhood through adulthood. Rejection is inevitable in life if you consider job opportunities, sports, and interpersonal relationships.
Help your child understand that everyone is entitled to an opinon, and that there are times that it can help someone to improve by stating one”s opinon and other times when it is completely unhelpful to voice one”s opinon and may in fact only serve to injure another person”s feelings. In other words teach your child how to discern the difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism.
For example, constructive criticism does not mean praise; you don’t need to tell somebody that their artwork is fantastic if you think otherwise. Contrastly, you don’t need to tell them that their artwork is horrible. This is where the difference between the two really comes in.
Constructive criticism entails telling people how to improve rather than simply shooting their efforts down. Rather than saying that everything is wrong, or even simply pointing out the things that are wrong, pointing out a specific way something could be improved.
Support your child through unexpected rough patches by being a good listener and using the experiences as teachable moments. “Accepting rejection is part of growing and moving on to emotional and mental maturity,” said Hughley.
Another way to prepare your child for rejection is to examine how you treat others. “Children observe their parents and how they respond to rejection. They also observe whether their parents reject or put down other people,” said Frank Mack, executive director at the Family Counseling Center of Central Georgia in Macon. The problem is that kids are not only soaking in what is happening at home, they are observing and drawing conclusions based on what they see on television and the playground too.
Relationships matter and should be chosen wisely. “Negative influences may cause a child to feel unworthy which will impact his self-esteem and self-image,” said Hughley. If handled carefully, this does not have to be the case. “With great support from family and true friends, adversity can be conquered,” he stated.
Your child shouldn”t come to expect constant praise from friends, but neither should they tolerate destructive criticism or constant criticism—that would be tantamount to abuse.
“Your child should surround himself with people who are going to feed into positive health as much as he is able, because negative people will just undermine his confidence,” said Rena Canady-Laster, counselor and Christian life coach at Life Builders.
“The key for parents is having conversations with your kid about what rejection is and what it could mean,” said Hughley. Kids need to recognize that everyone is not going to include them in their little group. Children need to learn not to rely on others to define their own worth.
Sometimes kids just need a confidence boost. “Martial arts gives confidence and self-esteem by building children up physically and mentally,” said Johnny Ahn, Blackbelt and instructor at Ahn’s Fitness Center in Macon.
Be sure your child knows that he can come to you to talk about anything. When rejection by peers happens, “Comfort her and help her understand that it is not in her control if someone has chosen to reject her and that it may even be the result of the peer”s inability to show empathy discern issue,” said Mack. Emphasize that a true friend would want to spend time with her and would not want to intentionally hurt her feelings. Help her find ways to reduce stress from rejection by taking some of the actions suggested by Mental Health America of Georgia:
•Take one thing at a time
•Take up a hobby
•Live a healthy lifestyle
•Learn how to learn from constructive criticism and be dissmisive of those who dish out destructive criticism
Remember that everyone has their own virtues and shortcomings. As long as our kids have self-worth, an honest, and realistic self-perception they”ll be able to handle most of life’s let downs.