Children, tweens and teens experience crushes on peers, and it’s a natural and developmental part of growing up. Ouch! Whether your child is in elementary, middle or high school, romantic rejection stings.
What’s a parent to do?
Prepare your child before her or his first romantic crush or broken teenage heart. When you dialogue with your child that rejection is a possible outcome, it won’t seem as big as a tidal wave.
Start by telling your elementary school kid that not everyone will reciprocate their warm and squishy feelings. And he or she will not reciprocate everyone’s fuzzy feelings, either.
Young love is both exhilarating and exhausting. Discuss dating, love and sex with your tweens and the age they can go on chaperoned group dates. Set clear expectations and discuss body boundaries. Educate love-stricken adolescents on puberty and hyped hormones.
Navigating romantic relationships in the teen years and learning how to accept and manage rejection will carry over to young adulthood and beyond. Continue to discuss dating, love and sex with your teenagers. Bring up the Romeo and Juliet scenario and how suicide is not an option. While parents may believe that talking about suicide may cause it to happen, the opposite is true. Research shows that talking to teens about suicide actually decreases it.
Mad media love
Talk to your kids about television and movie love which is hyped, puffed up and unrealistic. Converse about Reality TV shows and drama mommas or passion poppas for the purpose of network ratings.
“This over-emphasis on love is encouraged by media that tells stories, sings songs and writes books about how true love conquers all, is ultimately fulfilling, brings a never-ending wealth of happiness and is rarely marred by significant conflict,” according to an article at www.relevantmagazine.com.
When rejection happens
Parents are providers and protectors. And when our kid’s tender heart is hurt by romantic rejection, we are inclined to charge into battle. Whoa! Stand down, mama bear. Back away, poppa bear. Watching your kids going through the rejection junction is stressful, but you need to help them express and process emotions and learn and practice problem-solving skills. The key is to teach your kids positive ways to cope in the face of rejection while giving them emotional first aid.
Rejection feels lousy. Say “I’m sorry you are hurting.” Validate all feelings: shock, sadness, embarrassment, humiliation, anger, shame, confusion, disappointment, loneliness, loss. And feeling unloved and unworthy. Do not ignore or belittle emotions. Remind your daughter or son that feelings are temporary. Emotional hurts come and go. The feeling will not last forever, even though it feels like it. Offer comforting hugs when he or she cries. Adolescents can visit Rejection Land, but they cannot homestead there.
Kids often respond to rejection by finding fault and criticizing themselves. List their strengths, talents and abilities. Give them a pep talk and pump them up. They may roll their eyes, but kids do like parental praise and encouragement.
Revenge is not the answer. Communicate with your kids about how to manage feelings of jealousy and anger at the person who rejected them. Listen to your child, but do not jump on the bandwagon and call names or make rude comments about the person who chose not to be in a romantic relationship with him or her. Listen as she vents. And then listen some more.
Resource for teens
KidsHealth is one of my favorite internet websites. The following articles about rejection are for teens: “My Boyfriend and I Broke Up. How Can I Feel Better;” “Getting Over a Break-Up;” and “Am I in a Healthy Relationship?” Teens can take a five-question quiz called “Rejection: How Do You Deal?” Visit www.kidshealth.org/en/teens/rejection.html.
Rejection hurts. But it’s impossible to avoid. Life is about going for things. And when we do, rejection is always a possibility.
Childhood is practice for adulthood. Helping children, tweens and teens with romantic rejection will serve them well.
Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, self-syndicated columnist, educator and therapist. She resides in Scioto County, Ohio. www.melissamartinchildrensauthor.com.