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How to Help Your Child Cope With Rejections and What You Can Say to Support Them

As grown up people, we know that we can’t avoid rejections. Big or small, they’re always waiting around the corner, and we just need to accept them. But try saying this to your kid who’s just failed an orchestra audition, a sports team tryout, or wasn’t admitted to the college of their dreams. Broken, discouraged, and sad — that’s how they feel, but you can help them and teach them how to cope with rejection without having a nervous breakdown.

Here at Bright Side we want to help you support your kids through hard times, and here’s what you can do and say to comfort them.

Help your child calm down their nerves.

What to do: Helping your child get rid of negative emotions is the first thing you can do. Some experts believe that directing thoughts toward sensations can be an effective way to calm down the nerves of your upset child. Holding an ice cube in their palms or having them do breathing exercises with one hand placed on their stomach and one on their chest can help. Ask your child to take deep breaths with their belly, rather than their stomach, until they calm down. Also, try not to overreact yourself and praise your kid for doing the best they could.

What to say: “It’s OK, honey, nothing bad happened. We both know you tried hard.”

Help them analyze the situation.

What to do: After you both calm down, it’s time to discuss what happened. First of all, encourage your child to not take this failure too personally. It’s alright to call daycare or school to find out what happened to your child, but a better option would be to ask them some guiding questions. Being rational will help them concentrate on the situation itself, rather than on the negative feelings it caused.

What to say: “What happened? OK, and what happened after that? Why do you think you didn’t get on the team?”

Show them different examples of coping with rejection, including your own.

What to do: Rejection is normal and inevitable, and the sooner you help your child realize this, the better. You can watch American Idol and similar shows together where people get rejected, and show your child how other people overcome rejection peacefully and gracefully. Recollect an example from your own life when you were rejected, but managed to cope with it. Even if you feel embarrassed when thinking about that situation, it can help your child a lot.

What to say: “You know, that happened to me too once. When I was 9 they wouldn’t let me play Romeo. Do you know what I did?”

Show them alternatives.

What to do: Sometimes rejection helps us try different things that turn out to be even more interesting than those things we didn’t get. When we are upset, we don’t always see the brighter side of things and we can’t think of better options. Show these options to your kid and discuss the advantages together with them.

What to say: “I know it makes you sad that they didn’t accept you at that college, but why don’t you try a different one? Remember the college we visited last month? What a great campus they have, don’t they!”

Help them find their own way to overcome rejection.

What to do: Help your upset child see themselves as a person who can tackle difficulties all on their own. It may turn out that your son or daughter can think of a better solution than you can offer them, and they can be a great support for themselves.

What to say: “I know you’re feeling bad because they didn’t take you on the team this time. What can you do to feel better right now?”

What rejections did you face as a child? How did your parents support you in those tough moments?

Illustrated by Alena Sofronova for Bright Side