Rejection is a normal part of life, but it can also be one of the most difficult aspects of growing up.
In the teen years, rejection can take many forms. Many of us have suffered the sting of being turned down for a date or sitting home alone on the night of a big school dance or other social event. Feelings of rejection are expected when a boy doesn’t return your daughter’s affections or when a relationship ends or changes status.
However, social rejection isn’t limited to romantic missteps and missed connections. Some teens feel rejected if they are shut out from interactions with certain groups of kids at school. Other students experience more active rejection when they are verbally taunted or physically bullied by other teens. This ostracizing behavior can be sustained for long periods of time – sometimes lasting for an entire school year – or in other scenarios, the rejection can be situational. This behavior is often observed in groups of teen girls, when “mean girl” tactics can turn otherwise close friends against each other in short – but venomous – spats.
Rejection can also come in the form of a job opportunity lost or a scholarship not won. It could present itself as a failing grade or a loss in the school election, getting cut from a school play or sports team or dropping a chair in the orchestra. In these and similar instances, teens experience rejection when they don’t measure up, or fail to achieve their goal. This type of rejection can feel especially bitter, as the teen’s skills, abilities or accolades are found wanting. Unfortunately, repeated rejection can result in a loss of self-worth, feelings of futility and even depression and anxiety. It propagates an “I can’t win,” defeatist attitude, and might make teens reluctant to take advantage of other opportunities in the future.
Parents can play an active role in helping their teen recover from rejection. The most important part of the process is laying a foundation of healthy expectations. If parents proactively teach their teens the courage of trying, the satisfaction of knowing they did their best and the affirmation that they will be loved in their failures as well as their successes, teens will be equipped to better deal with normal rejections.
In addition, parents should provide guidance to help their teen create realistic, achievable goals and a plan on how to achieve them. If your teen struggles in the classroom and has to work hard for passing grades, it’s not realistic to encourage her to apply to Harvard. Instead, talk to her about her plans and priorities, and help her create a “plan B” you both can live with. It’s not about abandoning goals or giving up on dreams – it’s about helping your teen build a future that makes the most of her strengths and is a practical life plan for a person with her challenges.
Compass Rose Academy can help guide your teen through the hurdles of rejection and work with your family to establish realistic, achievable goals for the future. To learn more, visit www.compassroseacademy.org.