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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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Desperately Seeking a (new) Boyfriend

March 10, 2010

images

Battered, broken, but still thumping

I got this email the other day. The girl who wrote it feels hurt and rejected because her boyfriend just dumped her. She’s flipping out a little so her idea of what’s going to solve her problem makes about as much sense as… well, why not just read it for yourself?

Hey Terra,

My boyfriend recently broke up with me (over the phone!) and I’m still really heart-broken and don’t know how to get over him. Also there’s this other guy who’s in the school play with me. I’ve liked him even before I started  going with my ex. On Saturday the play ends.  I probably won’t see him anymore after that so Saturday is my last chance to get things started with him. Should I tell him how I really feel even though we don’t know each other very well???

Desperate Dina

Hi Dina,

I understand how upsetting it is to have someone break up with you. You’re hurting. I get that. It’s normal to feel that when you’ve been rejected. But this is NOT the time to jump into a new relationship. You are way too vulnerable. And maybe even a little confused in your thinking. Going up to the guy in the play and telling him you like him is just… dumb. Don’t go there! You’re setting yourself up for another rejection. Give yourself a break from guys. You can do that, can’t you?

In friendship,
Terra

Hey Terra,

Thank You!! I listened to your advice and it made major sense… I guess I was just really upset about how my ex just up and broke up with me that I decided the only way I could heal is if I just went out and found someone new when the thing I really needed to do was take a long clear look at what it was I was really after… Someone who could replace my ex. Now I know that that’s NOT something I need to do and I am learning to acccept myself for who I really am…… although I really do struggle with low self esteem. How do you suggest a person builds up self esteem cuz I must say I am in desperate need!

THANK YOU!
Dina

Hey Dina,

You should be so proud of yourself. You totally got what I was saying and that tells me that you are open-minded, open-hearted and so ready to put yourself back in charge of your own life. Brava!!! Do you really think you are in “desperate need” of self-esteem? I don’t see it that way. You know exactly who you are, what’s right for you and what is not OK. That’s the definition of “self-esteem.”

In friendship,
Terra

Sometimes what we really need is a chance at a new relationship with ourselves.

Filed under: Parenting,Teens — Tags: , , , — Annie @ 9:52 pm
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