Not long ago, I sat at my daughter’s bedside and brushed her hair away from her stream of tears. The boy who’d promised to take her to prom posted a picture on Instagram of him standing in a circle of candles and roses. He held a sign that said, “Prom?” It was obvious that the beaming girl by his side had said yes.
He hadn’t even uninvited my daughter.
Now she had a broken heart, a hemmed prom dress that the store refused to take back and a mind full of hurtful things he’d said to her at school that day.
Rejection is awful. And every time it visits one of my kids, it’s worse than awful.
The Enemy loves to take our kids’ rejection and twist it into a raw, irrational fear that God doesn’t have a good plan for them. This fear replaces the truth of who they are in Christ with hopeless lies. And these lies, which stem from the rejection, hurt them over and over again.
As a parent, it hurts to watch the pain steal the best of who my kids are by constantly reminding them of the worst that’s been said or done to them. The more consumed they are by rejection, the less control they have over their emotions, logical thought and sometimes even actions.
Middle School: The Inside Story will let you in on what tweens say when parents aren’t around. This Focus on the Family book will offer practical trips and suggestions for helping your tween navigate the physical changes and social issues of middle school.
But you can help them process the pain. When children struggle with a fresh wound or an old hurt, reinforce these four perspectives:
One rejection is not a guarantee of future failures.
It’s good for our teens to acknowledge the hurt, but they need not see it as a permanent hindrance to their future. One rejection doesn’t mean that they should give up on their hopes and desires. When faced with a hurtful situation, encourage them to tell themselves the truth:
- “Yes, that relationship ended. But that doesn’t mean I’ll never find love. It also doesn’t mean I’m not capable, likable and lovely.”
- “Yes, I didn’t get that spot on the team. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be other athletic opportunities for me.”
Psalm 34:4 says, “I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” When our teens recognize that God is working on their behalf, they can put that one rejection in its place and not let it affect their view of the future.
It’s good to ask “what” questions but less helpful to ask “why.”
Encourage your teens to ask questions that help them move forward, instead of staying stuck in the reasons why something happened. “What” questions increase their ability to become more self-aware, while “why” questions focus only on things out of their control.
Questions I’ve encouraged my teens to process and write down:
- What is one good thing I’ve learned from this rejection?
- What was a downside that I can be thankful is no longer my problem to deal with?
- What is one positive change I can make in my attitude about the future?
- What are some lingering negative feelings that I need to pray about and shake off to be better prepared to move forward?
Second Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” All our experiences can help us see God in a fresh, new way, and He is always there in the midst of our pain. He wants to woo our children to himself and away from rejection. He wants to teach them about His acceptance and love so that good can come from the experience as they learn to minister to others with similar hurts.
The internet never forgets, so no hashing, bashing or trashing.
It’s good for our kids to have trusted, wise mentors and family members with whom to process their rejection. These folks will allow them to work through their emotions without forever labeling the child as irrational. Social media, on the other hand, isn’t so forgiving.
Encourage your child not to let today’s reaction become tomorrow’s regret. Even using the seemingly innocent emojis (smiley-face characters and ideograms) that hint at a broken heart and stunned confusion will only invite others into your child’s private need to heal.
Once kids understand that there is a reason for not revealing all their emotions via the internet, they take a step toward wisdom. And wise decisions made today will have value in their lives tomorrow.
Rejection doesn’t label you. It enables you to adjust and move on.
It’s our kids’ choice to have either a realistic view or a pessimistic view of rejection. I remind my children that people with a realistic view see rejection as a natural part of life. It’s not that they don’t struggle through the hard feelings. They do. But they don’t let those temporary feelings cloud their whole view of life. By doing this, they are able to see plenty of positive in themselves, in others and in God’s plan. That is mature optimism.
Those with a pessimistic view, on the other hand, see life through the lens of their rejections. They feed their outlook by putting negative labels on themselves and others.
To help my children choose to be realistic, I use the following exercise with them.
Fill in the blank: “This rejection doesn’t mean I’m (negative label or shame-filled feeling). It makes this (opportunity/person/desire) a wrong fit for me right now. Instead of letting the feelings from this situation label me, I’m going to focus on God and His promises for good things.”
Psalm 34:5 says, “Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.” God’s truth is the lens through which our children need to view themselves. If we can help them understand this, then they will move toward having the inner radiance and peace that God freely gives.
As I’ve cried with my teens over the wounds of rejection, I’ve realized how important it is to fight the Enemy’s whispers with God’s promises—that even when they experience rejection, God never pulls back. His love and grace cover their hurt and shame. After all, rejections big and small will flow in and out of our children’s lives. But they can be assured that “the Lord delivers [them] out of them all” (Psalm 34:19).
Lysa TerKeurst is a New York Times best-selling author and the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries.