At some point in life, everyone desires to belong to some sort of group. When you’re school-aged, it can be even more important.
Fitting in with peers, developing a skillset with them and experiencing both victory and defeat with them is important to their young lives. But when the experience is JUST defeat – the end result can be heartbreaking.
How can you encourage your child and rebuild their self-esteem during a time of rejection or personal failing? Fortunately, it may be easier than you think.
If your child is preparing for a school play audition or football tryouts – anything where you are aware of it well in advance – sit them down and have a reality check.
There is a difference between dashing their hopes and ensuring they enter into a situation with a realistic perspective. Remind them that some will be selected, while other kids don’t make the team – and that’s okay. It’s a normal rite of passage to not be chosen for something, and everyone experiences it one time or another.
Cheer From the Start
On the day of your child’s tryout, try to send them to school with some sort of encouragement or reassurance. This may be a note in their backpack, or a text message letting them know you believe in them and are rooting for their success.
With older children, make sure you don’t do something that will rattle their nerves or embarrass them in front of the very people they are seeking approval from. A 16-year-old girl, for example, may not appreciate a pink heart-shaped post-it note on her lunch sack. Choose what is appropriate for your child and keep it discreet.
Remind them from the get go that you love them if they make the team, and love them if they don’t.
Check Your Emotions
Do not overwhelm your child with your own disappointment.
Sometimes parents want their children involved in a particular activity just as much as the child himself wishes for it. Stay positive and allow them to process their emotions without piling your own onto their shoulders.
On the other hand, try not to be too blasé. Despite not making the cut, the activity may be very important to the child – so don’t try to downplay it or call it “dumb” , “not worth it”, etc.
Find an Alternative
Maybe they didn’t get the lead role in the spring musical – but can they participate in a community acting class or join up with a local church choir?
Finding a way to reroute your child’s passion while they are still able to participate in their selected genre somehow can be both healing and rewarding.
Encourage your child to press on if they have a realistic chance at being selected in the future.
Take caution with this approach if you’re well-aware your child has two left feet and desires to be a prima ballerina. But, if it’s the standard situation of too many kids for too few opportunities, encourage them to prepare better and work harder toward next season. A little tenacity never hurt anyone, and if your child really wants to be a part of a particular activity, then teaching them to “try and try again” may be your best approach.
In the end, the most important thing to your child is your unconditional love.
Follow the natural rhythms of your child’s typical emotional processing to figure out how to serve them best in times of rejection. Some kids will want to yell and cry, while others will quietly spend time alone and then bounce back the very next day. Every child is unique – and it’s up to you as a parent to support them in ways appropriate to their individual personality.
Written by Sarah Antrim