For this week’s ‘5 Things’ post, I welcome James Thomas from Feel the Magic, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to providing grief education and support to bereaved children and their families. Feel the Magic aims to eliminate isolation in bereaved children by teaching them how to explore and understand their grief with peers who empathise and support them to succeed, in spite of their loss. I’m really pleased to have James on the blog today, sharing 5 ways to support your child through rejection.
Growing up comes with many different challenges. And whilst most parents try to raise their children to be compassionate, understanding and inclusive, your child could still face rejection at school or in social situations for a number of different reasons.
Whether it’s because they are living with a disorder that other children don’t understand, or they’re unwittingly alienating their friends whilst trying to process some tough emotions such as grief and bereavement, your child might feel rejected by their peers. Or, it could be something as simple as their personality not quite fitting the ‘norm’ as their peers see it. Whatever the reasons behind the rejection, your support and guidance as a parent will be invaluable to your child.
So what exactly can you do to help your child to understand and handle rejection?
Listen, acknowledge & validate
Feeling heard is important for a person of any age. And although upon hearing the problem, your first instinct might be to minimise the issue or offer an instant solution, sometimes it’s more helpful to simply listen and acknowledge how tough the situation is.
Acknowledging and validating their feelings will not only help them feel heard and understood in the present, but it will also encourage them to express their emotions and concerns in future. This builds a healthy way for them to deal with their issues as they grow up and will continue to be useful well into adulthood.
Your child may not open up to you immediately and even if they do, things might not get better overnight. So when it comes to helping your child deal with rejection at school or anywhere else, you must be patient. Simply let them know that you will be there for them as and when they are ready.
Teach your child about self-worth
Although whilst at school, the approval of others might seem like everything, we all know that life is about so much more than that. Those ‘cool kids’ won’t be in your child’s life forever and at the end of the day, their opinion doesn’t really matter as long as your child is happy in their own skin.
So if your child is the victim of rejection or bullying at school, try to give them a set of values that go beyond their school life. Teach them that it’s OK not to be liked by everybody. Teach them to be kind to others and to do the things that they enjoy regardless of what other people might think. Teach them that what they think of themselves is far more important than somebody else’s opinion of them.
Informing your child about these things will help build character and allow them to be a well-rounded person as a result.
Surround them with love
We’ve already established that school (and childhood in general) doesn’t last forever. And whilst it’s easy for us as adults to see the bigger picture, it can be hard to understand that when school and childhood is all you really know.
So whilst you might not always be able to control how other children behave towards your child, you can control how you, your family and your friends interact with them. So if your child is having a tough time at school, make sure that their home life is full of love, support and fun.
Surround your child with people that care about them and they will feel safe, understood and loved. And whilst that might not fix their issues at school it will go a long way towards making them feel happy and safe in their own skin which is invaluable to their overall development.
Children often act out when they don’t really understand something. But the good thing about children is that they also absorb information and generally take things at face value. In other words, they respond well to being educated.
So if your child is being rejected or alienated at school because they suffer from ADHD for example, talk to the school about the possibility of teaching the class about the condition. Explain how this affects someone’s behaviour and ability to process information. Once they understand a bit more about the condition, they will understand why your child behaves the way they do and may even try to accommodate them and protect them.
The same goes for your child too. If they suffer from a condition or are dealing with some emotional issues, talk them through it. Teach them about their issues so that they understand their feelings and know how best to deal with them.
Dealing with rejection is tough at any age, and watching your child face rejection is even harder. And whilst you might not be able to stop the world from behaving a certain way towards your child, you can arm them with the tools they need to understand and process this rejection in a productive way.
Ultimately, the best thing you can do for your child is to ensure that they feel safe, supported and loved at home. This is not only invaluable to their character development but will also ensure that they always have a place to turn to and a shoulder to cry on when they need it.
James & Kristy Thomas are the founders of Feel The Magic, a non-profit organisation that provides grief education and support to bereaved children and their families to help alleviate the pain and isolation felt by the loss of a parent, sibling or legal guardian. Back in 2012, in the wake of losing his mother, James decided to dedicate his life to giving grieving children a voice and a safe place to grow and thrive. He believes through Feel The Magic, he has been able to offer lifelines of hope to families who have suffered unimaginable losses, facilitating a journey of recovery and self-discovery.
You can also find Feel the Magic on these platforms:
This post is part of our ongoing series “5 Things Special Needs Parents Should Know”. If you’d like to submit a guest post, or if you have a topic you’d like covered as part of this series, send your idea to firstname.lastname@example.org