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Ways to help your child cope with the pain of feeling left out

It was April first, the day our daughter Susy was expecting her acceptance letter from the University of North Carolina to arrive in the mail. Unfortunately, the letter Susy received read something more like, "We regret to inform you … "

The day the rejection from UNC came, our entire family cried. Susy should have gotten in; she had the grades, the scores, the family legacy. Still she was rejected. We didn't understand it; we'd prayed so hard. Our daughter was heartbroken, and so were we.

On a different occasion, our son John, then 11, came storming in the front door, angry and tearful. He'd been playing basketball with the neighborhood guys and Roy, an older boy, had repeatedly told him he wasn't any good.

"You can't shoot, pipsqueak," he'd taunt. "You're no good."

The agony in our son's face reflected pain and rejection. As his story came pouring out, I, too, felt anger at this older boy, a Christian leader in his grade.

Pain, anger, frustration. We've all felt these emotions when our children have been rejected. The reality is, rejection's a part of life. As much as we'd like to shield our child from rejection, we can't. Our job is to prepare our child for life, not protect her from the pain of it. But here are some hints on how to help children cope with the inevitable pain of rejection.

Consider the Reason for Rejection

Let's say your son doesn't get his homework in on time, and because of his falling grades, he's disqualified from participating in a sport he'd hoped to join. The rejection's valid, so resist the temptation to fix things for him. You'd be doing your son a disservice. As difficult as it may be, allow him to suffer the consequences of his actions, no matter how painful. Simply say, "I'm sorry, son." After some of his disappointment's passed and he's had time to reflect on the situation, ask your son what he learned from it.

Perhaps your daughter doesn't get the part she wanted in the high-school play. Instead she winds up designing sets for the production. In the process she discovers a talent for art. Remind your child that sometimes an initial rejection can be God's way of leading her to something more suited to her. If possible, share a time when a rejection opened the way for a better opportunity in your life.

Whatever the reason for rejection, remind your child God's still in charge. He loves her and knows how she's wired (Psalm 139). He's given her unique spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 7:7) and has good plans for her (Jeremiah 29:11). And he promises never to leave or forsake her (Joshua 1:5) even though it seems as if her friends or peers have.

Give Your Child Perspective

When my son Chris's first "girlfriend" broke his tender junior-high heart, he was devastated, so together we read Psalm 30:5, "Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning."

"Chris, I understand completely why you're sad right now. In fact, I'm sad, too. No parent enjoys seeing her child's heart broken! But I promise you joy will come in God's time," I told him. "You'll be happy again."

What my son needed was hope. Perspective brings hope because we see the pain in the context of a bigger picture. Rejection isn't terminal. The pain doesn't last forever. It's usually temporary.

Go to God Together

After our daughter Susy's rejection from UNC, we went to the only place we knew for deep comfort—God. We claimed his promise in Romans 8:28, "In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

"Lord," we prayed, "we don't know how, but we ask you to use this for good in all our lives. Show us your goodness, and show Susy the college you have for her."

Susy went to Miami University in Ohio, where she grew in her faith. This past year she graduated and this summer was married to Scott, a wonderful believer she met while at school. Did God use her rejection for good? Yes, in so many ways! He did have a better plan for her.

Remember Jesus Was Rejected

If you feel as though no one understands how you feel, remember Jesus does. He was rejected, too—by his friends, his brothers, the religious people, the skeptics. And God the Father knows how you feel when your child's rejected, because he watched his only Son suffer rejection. He could have intervened; he's God! But he didn't. He loved you too much. His son, Jesus, not only died in your place to take on your sins, he experienced rejection while alive in order that he might comfort you.

Susan Alexander Yates is the author of numerous books, including And Then I Had Teenagers (Baker Book House). She and her husband, John, have five children.

Moms Speak Out!

What you had to say about helping your child handle rejection:

When a child at school purposely excludes one of my grandchildren, I give my grandchild the same advice I gave my children years ago: Ignore the offender and become a friend to someone else who needs one. Nothing takes your mind off feeling left out faster than befriending another person.

Mary, Washington

When my child's rejected, I wrap my arms around her and let her see my tears of empathy for her pain. Then I pray with my child for God's comfort. Afterwards, I often share a specific painful memory of a time when I felt left out. It helps my child see that I survived it! That way she can recognize God does help us get through painful times.

Lauren, New York

My son was rejected by some friends he's had for seven years because a new person joined the group and began teasing him. I explained to him that rejection usually has nothing to do with the person being rejected, but stems from the other person's insecurity. I reminded my son that he's still special to God. I also contacted the other parents so they'd be aware of the teasing.

Amy, California

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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