Helping Kids Cope With Rejection

Parenting, boy's face,
Rejection is a part of life, but it doesn't have to hurt as much as it does when the person being rejected lacks coping skills.

Child psychologist Robin Goodman stopped by The Early Show to give parents pointers on teaching those skills to their kids.

She tells co-anchor Harry Smith the first thing to keep in mind is not to overreact when your child says he or she has been rejected. "Your instinct is to protect them," Goodman says. "You never want to see them upset or hurt physically or emotionally, but the problem with that is that you need to separate how you feel about your child, how you felt about being rejected yourself, and also then help them understand what was really going on.

"(Otherwise) the child has to deal with your overreaction in addition to the rejection. …It's confusing for the child, in terms of what they're really trying to pay attention to. You want to empathize with how they're feeling. It also teaches them to empathize with other children or other people in their life when they're rejected or, in some cases, they might've been mean to somebody once."

The next tip? Don't minimize their feelings: "There's something very comforting," Goodman notes, "when you say…it's OK to feel like that. It's a relief for a child to think, "I should feel crumby," rather than being confused about how they're feeling."

Also, Goodman advises, investigate what happened: "Children sometimes catastrophize. They exaggerate, and then, if they understand what happened, you can help them problem-solve and can take responsibility for making it better the next time, for developing self-critical skills and understanding what works and doesn't work for them, and also how to get out of a bad mood.

"What you want to do is find out more about it. Get some facts and sit and listen and find out what about the situation was the most hurtful to them. It may not be what you first thought."

A final tip: Encourage different experiences: "They need to learn when they succeed and learn when they fail. Reality (TV) shows are much more about rejection and then overcoming it and putting your best face forward and also what you do if you lose, not just how you win and what you like to do and how you can even help other people."

Smith shared that he feels sometimes the thing you learn the most from is losing or being rejected, as opposed to winning. Is there a way to communicate that to children, he asked?

"Yes," Goodman replied. "It's always great to tell your own stories about what happened when you were younger and when you've gotten rejected, and even sometimes in your adult life, so they understand it's not something that just goes away or that little kids experience. It's just a part of life, (part of) getting along with people and finding out and learning things about yourself.

"It humanizes parents and it makes the kids feel better, (thinking), 'Well, if dad or mom could get over it, then I could.' You don't necessarily want to tell them stories about always winning and always being the best, because that's just not true in life.