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When Your Child Is Rejected


By Jill Brooke
New York Daily News
10 January 2000

Now that school is in full swing, kids have created their own cliques and sometimes your child may be left out.

I remember once when my son was on a slide and two older kids pushed him away in favor of another kid. My face flushed with anger, my heart raced with rage and all my adult reserve vanished as I morphed into a revenge-seeking child.

As parents, our natural inclination is to want to fix things and soothe the sting of rejection. While there are strategies we can deploy, we also must tread carefully.

Here are some tips from experts:

  1. Do not dismiss your child's feelings of rejection.

    "I hate it when parents react to the situation by saying, 'Don't worry. It's their loss, and you're more beautiful and smarter anyway,' says Leslie Lampert, a writer for Parents magazine."

    "Children need their parents for a reality check, so you will build a more trusting relationship by validating what they're feeling and then working together to find a solution. You may want to point out that it hurts to be rejected, but that it is our job to find others who appreciate us."

    "For example, you could say, 'Those kids at school don't appreciate you, but don't forget Tommy from down the street. The second you get home, he calls you and wants to play with you.' After acknowledging that they feel rejected, point out how they are valued in other aspects of their lives by their friends and family."

  2. Point out that rejection is a part of life for everyone.

    If parents share stories about how they have been rejected both as child and adult, they can reassure their child that rejection is common. Follow up with examples of how you successfully dealt with it.

    "Children need to understand that if they confront difficult issues they will adjust to and solve them in time," says Dr. Alan Hilfer, a psychologist at Maimonides Medical Center.

    For younger children, Dr. Hilfer suggests that you use action figures to represent children your kids are having trouble with and then discuss options for resolving the problem. Older kids should be reminded repeatedly that everyone faces this dilemma at some point.

  3. Emphasize activities that demonstrate your child's special skills to build his confidence.

    If your son is good at basketball, find him a school league in which he can make new friends. If your daughter is an artist, find her an after-school class.

    "If a child feels welcome in one group, it won't devastate him if another peer group isn't as welcoming," says Dr. Ava Siegler, a clinical psychologist and author of The Essential Guide to the New Adolescence: How to Raise an Emotionally Healthy Teenager.

    "Because of the new friends, the child will feel more empowered. This burst of confidence may spill over into their interactions with kids at their school and make them more popular." Another tip is to coach your child in a sport that is valued at the school. Play catch with the child if baseball is popular. The captain of the baseball team is usually a popular kid.

    For younger children, a parent should take the initiative in arranging play dates. "Find out who in the neighborhood goes to the same school," says Dr. Rafael Art Javier, director of the Center for Psychological Services and Clinical Studies at St. John's University. "Set up a party or picnic and invite new and old friends." If young children or older kids see each other outside of the classroom, they may be more inclined to become friendly at school.

  4. Tell the child you will be her advocate.

    "Young children will need a lot of hugging and cuddling," says Dr. Paul Ciborowsky, a psychologist at Long Island University. "When you prepare their lunch, put a note in that tells them Mom and Dad love them. Or a fuzzy little ball or toy with a smiley face or an 'I Love You' greeting so that they understand they are loved. For older kids, explain that things may get better in time and to give it a few weeks. But also make sure they know that you will speak to a school guidance counselor if the situation doesn't improve."


Another tip, says Robin Brinn, a social worker at the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services is to "get involved in back-to-school nights and meet the child's teachers, guidance counselors and parents of their friends." Parents can then gain other perspectives on why the child is getting rejected and help her at home.

All these tips can help ease the pain of rejection, which everyone will face at some point in his or her life.

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Last modified: 02/09/09