8 Ways Parents Can Help Their Child Deal With Rejection
It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
This past week I celebrated Spring Break with my kids. And of course, we brought our new puppy, Bear. Bear is a six-month-old Yorkipoo. He’s solid black, fluffy, bouncy and little-- he only weighs six pounds. (If you haven’t already, take a look at his pictures on my facebook page! http://on.fb.me/eWbK4j)
We stayed at a resort hotel . . . in Lexington, Kentucky. Not exactly Florida or California but we had fun all the same. When we arrived at the hotel we learned they were hosting a show of over 500 Whippets. Do you know what a Whippet is? (It’s okay if you don’t . . . I thought they were birds.) Whippets are a breed of dog. They are medium sized and look similar to a Greyhound; they are intelligent, sweet, and very docile.
We were excited. Bear loves other dogs and knew he would make some new “friends.” Before our time at the pool, we took Bear to check out the convention. We strolled down the long aisles of booths selling everything Whippet--clothes, jewelry, personalized dog portraits, dog clothing, and dog beds.
Walking through the crowd of people and pets, I began to feel like unwanted company as I detected the owners walking past us without saying a word or glancing our way. Nothing outright rude, of course. One friendly owner let me in on the secret saying, “I imagine you noticed--we’re a snooty breed.” And then it dawned on me, “You mean, we’re being snubbed because we don’t own a Whippet??”
It quickly took me back to my high school days where being “In” meant you had to fit in. In my school that translated into: Guess jeans, Big hair, and Bulky Limited sweaters. And those who didn’t fit the bill were on the outs with their peers solely based on appearance. In a group setting, people are funny--they tend to ostracize others who aren’t quite the same, and often for silly reasons.
During the week other guests in the hotel would stop to admire Bear and say, “Whoa, you’re not a Whippet” or “Well, you’re certainly out of place here.” It brought to mind many of the children I am fortunate enough to work with and how often they voice feeling left out because of their individual differences or the fact that they don’t look like their adoptive or foster family. Of course, as Bear’s “mom” I knew he didn’t understand these comments but if they had been comments to my child it would have crushed my heart . . . and theirs.
In sessions children have shared, “Other kids don’t like me ‘cause I’m too hyper,” “I don’t like my skin color” or “I look different than my family.” Maybe we’re missing the small snubs that our kids experience. Maybe we aren’t giving enough credence because others behavior and remarks aren’t outwardly mean. Or unfortunately, maybe we’re witnessing direct comments or behaviors that are rude and hurtful. As a parent, what can we do to help?
Eight Ways Parents Can Help
- Listen without judgment When your child voices complaints of feeling left out or feeling different-- listen to his story. Be careful not to respond from a place of judgment, for example, “Why would you say that?!” or “Johnny wouldn’t do that to you!” Instead say, “Help me understand what it’s like for you . . . ” and listen quietly.
- Reflective listening The power of reflective listening comes from making the child feel heard and understood. To practice this style, reflect or mirror back the child’s comments. For example, if your child says, “And all the other girls were playing hopscotch. I asked if I could play too and Jesse said, ‘No way, go play with Hayley’,” a mirroring comment would be, “Oh, the other girls were playing hopscotch and when you asked to join, Jesse said for you to play with Hayley. Is that right?”
- Don’t jump in to fix the problem While it is a parent’s job to advocate for their child (especially with bullying), children also need to learn problem solving skills. Children build a sense of mastery when they have successfully managed a difficult situation. Some questions to use in these instances would be, “Do you want to talk about it together?” or “Would you like some ideas from me on how to handle it?”
- Find social opportunities Find social activities where there is a diverse mix of children and families. Locate activities or groups in your community that meet your child’s individual needs; look into local clubs, sports, youth groups, and school.
- Be your child’s safe haven Every mountain is easier to climb when someone we trust walks alongside us. Be that person who walks alongside your child in these crucial life experiences.
- Encourage your child to be proud of his/her individuality Every parent faces the dilemma of helping their child understand that fitting in doesn’t mean being exactly like the other person. Sometimes, the best way to teach this concept is through our own example-- How do you role model self-love for your child?
- Share your own experience I have shared occasions from the past when I was left out, either as a child or as an adult. My girls were surprised to know that mommy would ever be excluded!
- End the friendship In one instance, we completely ended one of our daughter’s friendships because of it’s unhealthy nature and the parents' unwillingness to address the issues.
By the way, before we left the hotel we bought Bear a fur-lined, zebra stripped Whippet collar! It’s perfect for our perky little puppy!