Annie Fox's Blog...

Thoughts about teens, tweens, parenting and this adventure of living on Earth in the 21st century.

Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

Parenting Question: How can I help my child deal with rejection?

August 21, 2015

"Why doesn't she want to be my friend anymore?"

“Why doesn’t she want to be my friend anymore?”

Today’s question comes from the mom of a 12-year-old who is feeling her daughter’s pain at being rejected by a long-time bff.

How can I help my daughter deal with rejection? Her friend of six years has a new best friend. My daughter is hurt and desperately trying to win her friend back. What can I do to help her accept that sometimes friends move on?

Rejection comes up a lot in life, so we get lots of practice dealing with it. Either we didn’t get chosen for the team or didn’t get into the school we wanted or didn’t get the job we interviewed for. These are as “institutional” rejections. They sting, but at least they are not truly personal. This 12-year-old is grappling with a very personal form of rejection, being ditched by a close friend who has moved on into the embrace of a new bff. Ouch!

When we talk to our kids about feelings of rejection it’s important to give them a chance to talk about it. “I feel bad! What did I do wrong? Why doesn’t she want to be my friend any more?!” These aren’t necessarily questions that require answers from you. A child asking these questions is most helped by a parent who listens with compassion and patience and understanding. But when this girl talks to Mom about “trying to win her friend back” that is when a parent ought to do more than listen and empathize.

The daughter seems to believe she can change her friend’s mind. Mom can help by providing a  reality check (compassionately, of course). Mom needs to tell her there are certain things in life that we can control and certain things we can’t. In the area of what we can’t control: the thoughts, feelings and behavior of other people. In the area of what we can control: our response to what’s going on inside and out.

If someone were to kick me in the shins, I’d yell “Ow!” because it hurt. If someone says, “I don’t want to be your friend” that’s going to hurt, too. But how long will it hurt? And how many times will I play over in my mind those hurtful words? If I’m a healthy, resilient child or adult, I won’t replay it much. Why re-hash something when the hash didn’t taste great to begin with?

Talk to your children about the concept of re-hashing negative thoughts and mental movies. Then say to your child, “Sweetheart, you already have what it takes to be a good friend. You were Emma’s best friend for six years! And that is a great accomplishment. But friendships don’t always last forever.” Now would be a good time to remind your child of the friend she was close to in preschool or third grade who, now in sixth grade, is no longer a close friend. That might help her understand the evolution of feelings and friendships.

My best advice for helping children dealing with rejection:

a) Let kids express how they feel without your interrupting, correcting, or invalidating those feelings.

b) Prompt kids to think and talk about what, if anything, they might have done to contribute to the rejection. Relationships are a two-way street and it’s good for them to acknowledge what they might have done or failed to do to keep the friendship healthy and strong.

c) Brainstorm with kids about how they might respond next time they are rejected. It’s important for them to recognize they always have options in the way they behave.

d) Encourage them to think about a candidate who might become their next best friend.

These conversations will empower your child. It will also strengthen your bond and help your child become more resilient.

 

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“I’m too scared to talk to my BFF!”

November 24, 2014

Conventional Wisdom: Girls are more talkative than boys, especially when it comes to expressing their feelings.

Annie: That depends on the risk the girl believes she’s taking by being honest.

This question comes from Tweenhood.ca, a thoughtful, complete resource for parents of tweens. Co-fouder Wendy Morrelli, was kind enough to host a stop on my Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship blog tour last month.

Q: I’ve heard my friend say and do things that are not nice. But I’m afraid to say something as I don’t want to lose her friendship.

I want to talk to her but I'm scared!

“I want to talk to her but I’m scared!” Illustration by Erica De Chavez from The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship by Annie Fox © 2014

Annie: Here’s what I hear you saying, “I don’t like the way she’s acting. I want it to stop. But I don’t want her to be mad at me. So I don’t know what to do!” I’ve heard this same fear expressed by many girls, so you’re certainly not alone!

When we are uncomfortable in a friendship because a friend is doing or saying something rude or disrespectful (to us or other people) we need to speak up. If you don’t tell her how her behavior makes you feel, she won’t know because she isn’t a mind-reader! But it’s hard to tell a friend that you don’t like what she’s doing. Maybe you’re afraid she will get angry and not want to be your friend any more. Maybe you also believe being a “good” friend means you should never say anything negative about your friend’s behavior. Where does that leave you? I’m guessing it probably leaves you feeling stuck. But you aren’t stuck. You always have options. You can stay silent, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Do you know why? Because when things aren’t going well in a friendship, silence does not make things better. Silence usually makes things stay the same or actually make things worse! If you are looking for ways to make things better between you and your friend, I suggest you take some slow deep breaths and say calmly and respectfully say this to her:  “When you do ________ it makes me uncomfortable. It makes me lose respect for you. Please stop doing that.” Then close your mouth and listen to what she has to say. It could be a really interesting conversation! Read the rest of our Q&A at Tweenhood.

Bonus Question for Parents: How could you do a better job empowering your daughter to speak up in a friendship?

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Day 14: Kindness and Respect Challenge (Keep your head)

October 14, 2013

At the start of middle school my best friend ditched me for a popular new girl. Confusion turned to shock, hurt and then anxiety when Popular Girl got my ex-BFF (and pretty much the rest of the class) to turn against me. They teased me, started rumors, blamed me for stuff. I was drowning in a sea of social garbage with no clue what to do to help myself.

Getting to know you... and myself

When our teacher announced we were putting on The King and I, Popular Girl and ex-BFF let all the girls know they had the two female leads sewn up and no one else need apply. Despite their mind-games, I tried out for the lead role of Anna. Looking back, that took guts… and stupidity. Oh, I knew I could sing (though no one else did at that point), and I had confidence in my acting ability, but I also knew none of it mattered because the other students would be “voting” on the cast. Screw ability, it was going to be a popularity contest. I didn’t have a chance.

We each auditioned for the roles we wanted. Then we all voted. By some twist of fate, I got the lead.

Playing “I” in the King and I provided life-altering education. For the first time, I found something I could do well that transported me into someone else’s life. And through my performance I could take an audience along with me. Magic! So began my life-long passion for theater. And since Anna was a teacher, it may also have started me thinking about the delights of working with children. The role was challenging and joyful, but dealing with the off-stage drama in class was very hard.

Thank goodness for Rudyard Kipling. He was another part of 6th grade that’s still with me because our teacher required us to memorize and recite Kipling’s, If. Line after line that poem served as my life-preserver during that Year of Social Garbage.

That’s why, whenever I get emails from girls and guys suffering at the hands of enemies, friends and “fren-emies” I think of this bit of wisdom from Kipling:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs, and blaming it on you.

Or this:

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or this:

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise

Today’s challenge… keep your head about you.

Check out Day 15 of the Kindness and Respect Challenge

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