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Helping your Teen Handle Rejection

Ah…the trials and tribulations of the teenage years.  As if it wasn’t difficult enough dealing with the transition from middle school to high school, learning to drive, hormones, and finding their own niche, teens today also have to learn to deal with possible rejection in various areas of their life: social, romantic, extracurricular, and academic.  In a recent article published in the March issue of FamilyCircle magazine, Ashlea Halpern discusses various rejections as well as gives parents tips they can use to help their teen.

Social: As teens start to find their own way in the world, they begin to rely even more so on their friends and acquaintances for cues on how to dress, how to act, and who to befriend.  Social rejection occurs when your child is picked on for reasons such as what they wear, what they drive (or don’t drive), weight, hairstyle, braces, etc.  According to Mitch Prinstein, Ph.D., director of Clinical Psychology at UNC Chapel Hill, “kids who experience peer rejection are more likely to drop out of school, use drugs and alcohol, and engage in risky sexual behavior.”

How to Help:  Dr. Prinstein says to avoid downplaying the importance of popularity at this age and don’t intervene directly by contacting a bully or his parents; doing so will only infantilize your child.  Instead, try to help your child understand what is happening and why it’s not his or her fault.  Additionally, keep encouraging your child to go out and be social, which may lead to making new friends.  Encouraging your teen to participate in volunteer activities will also help your teen feel better about himself or herself by helping others.

Romantic:  Love is tough – we’ve all been there, and it is painful to watch our young loved ones go through that pain.  A devastating disappointment in love can scar a teen for years, possibly leading to a lack of confidence, more self-blame, and a decreased inclination to take future risks.

How to Help:  Difficult as it may be, parents should resist the urge to put down the object of their teen’s affection and avoid phrases like “It’s his loss.”  Instead, focus on your child’s positive qualities, like her kindness or sense of humor.  Harlan Cohen, founder of the International Risk-Taking Project, suggests introducing what he calls the “universal rejection truth,” which is the idea that some people in life will like us, and some people won’t, and that’s okay – just focus energy on those who do.  Also, remind your teen to use this as a learning experience on how to be kind in these types of situations.

Extracurricular:  Auditioning for the school play, running for class president, or trying out for the soccer team involves an amount of calculated risk.  Teens who end up not making the cut tend to either beat themselves up (“I’m a loser!”) or lash out at the system or others (“The tryouts were fixed!”).

How to Help:  Women’s career and leadership coach Kris Parfitt advises that parents should avoid bad-mouthing the school, teachers, or others involved, and instead, let their teen talk.  Ask your teen what he thought he could’ve done better or differently.  If he’s interesting in trying again, suggest that he talks to the coach or teacher to ask for pointers on how he could improve his performance, or that he find interim activities that will help him practice.  You can also help your teen explore all of the aspects of his interest: perhaps instead of acting in the play, he’d like to work on the sets.

Academic:  Rejection in this area can range from scoring poorly on a final, to not doing as well on a standardized test as was expected, to not making the honor roll, to not getting into the college of choice.

How to Help:  If your child is faced with the ultimate rejection in this category – not getting into her favorite college – remind her that many, many adults have build impressive careers at their second- or third-choice college.  Keep your child grounded, but motivated, regarding their desires.  As John Fuhrman, author of “Reject Me – I Love It!  21 Secrets for Turning Rejection into Direction” states, “(Parents are not) here to guarantee them success.  We want them to think that the goal is so important, they’re willing to risk overcoming the fear of rejection and go for it anyway.”

Lastly, Halpern shares the following “9 Dos and Don’ts of Teen Rejection”:

  1. Do acknowledge that your kid took a risk.  That alone is worth celebrating.
  2. Don’t trivialize your child’s feelings.  It may not seem like a big deal to you, but right now it’s the world to him.
  3. Do offer perspective.  Sharing a personal story of a time when you overcame a hurtful snub proves that life does go on.
  4. Don’t be petty.  You can’t teach your kid to be the bigger and better person when you resort to name-calling yourself.
  5. Do encourage your teen to vent.  Airing her frustration “off the record” with you – instead of publicly on Facebook or Twitter – will help her save face in the long run.
  6. Don’t avoid the issue.  Even if your son says he doesn’t want to talk about it, try again later.  He’ll come around.
  7. Do try to lift her spirits.  Taking a walk together, watching a goofy movie, or grabbing lunch at her favorite restaurant will help clear her mind.
  8. Don’t play the blame game.  It’s hard for kids to take responsibility for their own shortcomings when they’re busy pointing the finger at others.
  9. Do seek outside help.  If your teen clams up around you, encourage her to talk to a sibling, grandparent, teacher, or other adult mentor.

Rejection is difficult at any age.  For more tips to help your children overcome rejection and learn important coping skills, check out the Kidtelligent Assessment!  This assessment not only gives you indispensable insight into your child’s unique personality, it also offers parenting suggestions based on your child’s personality traits.  To learn more about Kidtelligent, go to, and follow us on Facebook at


Sarah is a guest blogger for Kidtelligent. She is a soccer-playing, travel-loving, poetry-writing wife to a “go-getter” husband and mother to two high-spirited, sweet, and enthusiastic boys. All of this “get up and go” makes her one tired, but happy woman!