Listen: Psychologist Collett Smart chats to Katrina Roe.
When a child or teen is excluded at school, or not invited to a party, there’s a part of every parent that hurts too, and wants to take revenge.
But getting angry on your child’s behalf, and trying to ‘fix’ the problem, is not a good solution.
Family psychologist Collett Smart spoke to Katrina Roe about the more helpful steps a parent can take to encourage their child in times of rejection.
1 – Don’t Leap into Rescue Mode
She started by urging parents not to ‘freak out’ and leap into action. Usually children and teens aren’t looking for advice and a rescue plan. They just want to be heard. Listening is key.
“Many children tell me ‘I just want to vent to someone, and I worry that my parents will start freaking out’, so then they don’t speak up,” she said. “Our children aren’t looking to be fixed or wanting advice, they just want to feel heard and understood in a calm and safe environment.
“We have to snuggle up, sit near, and listen. They need to know that you’re in your corner.”
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2 – Help Your Child Get it Off Their Chest
Ask open-ended questions that help your child tell their story, rather than ‘interrogating’ them. And then, reflect out loud what they’ve told you.
“Learning happens best while the child is telling you their story,” Collett said. “If children can actually hear themselves and hear their story, we don’t realise how powerful that is for them, and the learning that comes from that.
“After they’ve told you everything, offer them a drink and a snack.”
3 – Share Your Experience – Only if it’s Welcome
As a parent you may want to go into ‘advice’ mode, but that’s best done later on, or the next day, when your initial emotions – and theirs – have softened.
Offer to share your own experiences from childhood, and if they want to listen, tell them what you went through. It helps children realise they’re not alone in their pain.
“It can be helpful to say that it did get better for you, or find something encouraging about how things changed for you,” Collett said.
4 – Talk to Them About Real Friendship
Help your child to reflect on what true friendship is, by asking questions like,
- What is a friend?
- How should a friend make you feel?
- How do you behave towards friends?
- How could you react differently next time?
5 – Encourage Your Child About Their Positives
If your child or teen’s friendship with someone has turned sour, they need to be encouraged that they aren’t a failure, and they are a good person worthy of friendship.
“Name a strength or something positive you’ve seen your child do well in a friendship, to encourage them that they are a good friend,” Collett said.
6 – Point them to Their Other Friends
Help your children to develop a wider net of friends to draw on, by being involved in in church activities, sport groups, art and craft activities, or other social and hobby groups. Their interests will help them to focus on other areas of their life when they’re in pain.
Research shows that children and adults only need a couple of friends in their lives to not feel lonely.
“It’s important for us as parents to remember that as children grow, when their interests and hobbies change, their friendships change as well,” Collett said. “Help your child not to put too much energy into the broken friendship.
“Research shows that children and adults only need a couple of friends in their lives to not feel lonely,” she added.
7 – Encourage Them to Take a Break from Social Media
When children and teens are suffering from rejection, help them to put down their mobile phones and tablets, walk away from their laptop, and switch off their social media.
“‘When our children have been left out of a party, FOMO’, or ‘fear of missing out’, is exacerbated with social media, and it brings those issues [of rejection] back and increases the pain,” Collett said.