If your child has ever been left out on the playground, left un-picked for a sports team, or overlooked for the school play, you understand the heartbreak and humiliation of rejection. Being snubbed is painful, especially for younger children, who lack experience with and perspective on peer relationships and haven’t yet developed the socialization skills necessary to navigate the complex world of emotions.
When kids feel rejected or are left out, they don’t feel important or valued, accepted or wanted. They may try to avoid certain situations that could cause them pain, missing out on enriching opportunities that would make them happy and fulfilled. Studies show that kids who experience consistent rejection can have lower self-esteem and anxiety, which can lead to depression and other emotional problems. Which means, early intervention is key! Learning new social and emotional skills can help children feel more competent and confident trying to fit in with peers.
So how can we teach kids to cope with rejection? First of all, by teaching them to understand and manage their emotions. Emotional awareness gives us important information about what we are experiencing and helps us know how to react. It also helps us build stronger relationships. When I work with kids, I tell them that there are no right or wrong feelings, that all feelings are okay! Some feelings are big and some are small. Your child can even rate on a scale of I to 10 how she is feeling. It’s always good to think about how we feel about ourselves and our situation.
Here are some tips for accomplishing all this:
1. If your child has been rejected, try not to minimize or be dismissive of her feelings. Listen with empathy and validate her feelings, so she knows that you understand. You can even share a time when you felt left out, and reassure her that even grow-ups feel rejection from time to time.
2. If your child is feeling left out, acknowledge it! Instead of denying that anything is wrong, encourage her to think about how normal it is to feel that way given what she has experienced.
3. Help her voice what she is feeling. Sometimes younger kids need help finding words to express themselves because they lack a vocabulary for feelings. It’s okay for your child to say, “I felt really bad when I wasn’t picked for the team because all my friends got picked and I didn’t.” You can also encourage her to talk to a friend or someone who cares about her and who is a good listener.
4. Don’t let her dwell on her rejection. Instead, help her think positively and use “self-talk” to help get her over it and move on. Helping her thing about what she does well and what’s good about her can help ease the pain and start to rebuild her confidence. Then she can keep it in perspective by seeing that there will be other opportunities for her. Yes, being rejected can hurt but it isn’t the end of the world!