Your Child and the Pain of Rejection

As parents, we will almost certainly watch our children experience the pain of social rejection, either by friends, or by a boyfriend or girlfriend.  There are two pitfalls to watch out for as a parent.  One is that we will internalize it, and empathize so deeply that we will have sleepless nights, or worse, interfere in the relationship (I hate to admit this, but my observation is that moms seem to struggle more with this).  The other is that we will miss the pain that they are experiencing.  I once missed an opportunity to support my child when her friend died, because I didn’t realize how close she and this girl had become.  I regret that I wasn’t there for her more at the time.  Or we might be tempted to dismiss or minimize the hurt.  “Oh, there are other better guys out there for you.”  “She didn’t really appreciate what a great guy you are anyway.”  A fascinating study found that “feelings of social rejection activate regions of the brain that are involved in physical pain sensation….”   In other words, emotional pain “hurts” like physical pain.  The researchers also “point out that the findings affirm the wisdom of cultures around the world that use the same language—words like ‘hurt’ and ‘pain’—to describe the experience of both physical pain and social rejection.”  The best thing we can do when our child is experiencing the intense pain of rejection is to lend a sympathetic ear.  We need to show our love and support by listening and by understanding that the pain, even though we know it won’t last forever, is quite real to our son or daughter.