Friend trouble? Help your child handle emotions

Harry Potter was rejected, several times. If author J.K. Rowling hadn't kept trying publisher after publisher, we'd all have missed out on some great adventures. She didn’t take it personally and give up. She believed enough in herself and her abilities to try yet another publisher. Dr Tracey Stewart is a developmental psychologist working with children. She gives us tips on how to handle it if your child is rejected. 

It is a fact that we are social creatures and all of us want to be accepted, liked, valued and respected for who we are and what we are able to give, and social acceptance becomes more important to us as we become teenagers and young adults.  It is also a fact that life is about living and living is about going after what we want, in a positive way, of course, and when we go after the things we want rejection, or non-acceptance, is always a possibility. 

Big or small, rejection is relative and does affect us all.  Everyone feels they are not accepted at times but this doesn't mean they aren't liked, valued or respected.  It just means that one time, in one situation, with one person or just a few people, things didn't work out.  Everyday situations can lead to feelings of social rejection, like if your joke didn't get a laugh at school, if no one remembered to save you a seat at assembly, or if the person you really like talks to everyone else but you. 

Rejection hurts but it's impossible to avoid it altogether without giving up on what you hope for.  Building social acceptance in your peer group involves you being able to work with two aspects of yourself: how you feel and what you think in each situation and these feelings and thoughts are directly linked to how valuable you think you are – your self-esteem. Use lessons learned through social interaction to build your self-esteem. 

Let's start with feelings: If you get rejected, acknowledge it. Instead of thinking "I shouldn't feel this way," remember that it is normal  to feel like you do given your situation. Notice how intense your feelings are:di d this rejection upset you a lot? Or just a little? Cry if you want to — it's a natural way to release emotion. 

Next, move on to name what you're feeling. For example: "I feel really disappointed that I didn't get chosen for the school play. I wanted it so badly and I tried so hard. I feel left out because my friends made it and I didn't.”  

Be honest with yourself:  do you know enough about your abilities, talents and strengths?  Do you also have an idea of what your weaknesses are?  If your skills weren't strong enough this time maybe you need to work on whatever it takes to improve your chances of getting accepted next time. Use the rejection as an opportunity for self-improvement.  Sometimes a rejection is a harsh reality check but if you approach it in the right way it could help nudge you in a direction that turns out to be the perfect fit for your talents, personality and all the really great things that make you who you are. 

Be positive: when you're dealing with a painful emotion like rejection, it's easy to get caught up in the bad feelings but dwelling on the negative stuff can feel like living the experience over and over again. Not only does it keep hurting, it becomes harder to get past the rejection. 

Avoid talking or thinking about it nonstop. Why? Negative thinking influences our expectations and how we act in the future. Now onto your thinking: examine your thought soundtrack.  Consider how you're explaining the rejection to yourself.  Are you being too hard on yourself? It's natural to wonder, "Why did this happen?" When you give yourself an explanation stick to the facts.  Tell yourself: "I got turned down for the dance because the person didn't want to go with me." Don't tell yourself: "I got turned down because I'm not attractive" or "I'm such a loser." These aren't facts. They're you imagining a reason, reading too much into a situation.

Self-blaming or put-down thinking can exaggerate our weaknesses and lead us to believe stuff about ourselves that simply isn't true. This kind of thinking crowds out hope and belief in ourselves — the very things we need to get past feeling bad and wanting to try again.  If you start blaming yourself for the rejection, you might start believing you'll always be rejected every single time you try. Thoughts like, "I'll never get a date" or "No one will ever like me" amplify a simple rejection to disaster level. Rejection can hurt a lot and can be terribly disappointing, but it's not the end of the world.  Keep things in perspective:  demonstrate your emotional maturity by telling yourself: "OK, so I got rejected this time. Maybe next time, I'll get a 'yes'. 

Remember all the other times when you've been accepted. Think of all the people at school who do like you and support you and never give up on yourself!

 b2ap3_thumbnail_drtracey.jpgDr Tracey is one of our resident experts at SchoolGuide.  She is a developmental psycholgist and has a full set of educational DVDs on her website Headwise

Last modified on Sunday, 18 January 201

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