What Next? Helping Kids Cope with Rejection

Life is hard. Disappointments happen. Sometimes we lose when we deserve to win. Sometimes we win when we deserve to lose.

As adults, we’ve had practice coping with letdowns. But for children, the pain is fresh and the wounds particularly deep. They’re not prepared for unexpected blows, nor do they understand how a loss might benefit them long-term. One rejection can feel like the new norm, and with every subsequent defeat they may fear they’ll never break the cycle. Once a loser, always a loser.

That isn’t true, of course – at least not for those who keep plugging away – but try explaining that to the boy cut from his baseball team or the girl who didn’t make cheerleader. Try convincing anyone who just failed miserably that there’s hope.failure2

So what’s a parent to do? How can we pull our children from the pit when they fall in? I don’t have many answers, but I do know this: We don’t jump in the pit with them. We don’t act like it’s the end of the world or throw confetti on their pity party because that fuels their fears. Our attitude affects their attitude, and if we, in our infinite wisdom, send a message of doom and gloom, what does that say about their future?

Let me clarify that I believe parents should share in a child’s disappointment. We should cry with them if that’s where our heart is and allow a mourning period. Since many tryouts fall on Friday, we often have a weekend to work with. For two entire days, our child can have unlimited freedom to mope, scream, sob, or vent. They can acknowledge their ugliest emotions and get everything they possibly can out of their system.

And then come Monday morning, the world starts spinning again.  Come Monday morning, our child can rise back up and begin asking a crucial question: “What next?” Will they try out again next year or branch into something new? Could now be the time for soul-searching?

People have different ways of moving on, and even if they’re spinning their wheels a while, going through the motions until they get a game plan, it’s a step in the right direction.

As a parent, I worry about the heartache my kids will face. But my biggest fear is that they’ll quit trying. It happens all the time, and it happened to me in grade school when I stopped trying out for plays because I failed a few times.

For years my sister Krissie and I auditioned for productions, and together we made our first three. But then “The Wizard of Oz” came along, and Krissie made it without me. I was okay with one rejection, but when this same thing happened two more times I dropped out of acting. Having my little sister show me up was embarrassing, and by cutting my losses early I thought I could avoid future grief.

To this day I regret giving up something I loved. If only I’d admitted to my parents that my real reason for quitting was fear, not a loss of interest, they could have encouraged me to stick with it. They could have explained that failure is a part of life, and with every effort I made I increased the likelihood of the tide turning in my favor.

Babe Ruth once said, “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.” (For the record, he struck out 1,330 times.) In baseball a batting average of .300 is considered excellent. That’s basically hitting three balls out of ten – a statistic we’d balk at in real life. But could that be our problem? If we adopted baseball’s philosophy in all parts of life, would it take the pressure off us having a perfect record? Could it put our disappointments in perspective, reminding us that one home run – or better yet, a grand slam – can compensate for nine missed hits?

I think so.

If I have any advice for someone down on their luck, it’s this: Don’t give up. Hang in there. Work hard and believe in your ability to improve. If you really love something, stick with it because your passions help lead you to your calling. Giving up may seem safe now, but as you get older you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the things you did.

When open door closes, another opens. Embrace new opportunities and be ready to act. As Confucius said, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” There’s no shame in trying, only the remorse of passively watching the world go by.

So jump back in the game by asking yourself, “What next?” These two simple words may be the jump-start you need to an amazing new chapter of life.


Thanks for reading this article today. If you found the message helpful, please share it through social media.

I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. You can subscribe to my blog, join my Facebook community, or find me on Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest

Also, I’ve written two books for teen & tween girls designed to empower them through faith. The newest one, Liked, is getting a fantastic response as a unique resource for girls of the digital age, and along with the bestselling 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, it’s being used widely across the U.S. for small group studies.

Have a great day, and thanks again for stopping by!


Posted by Kari on March 10, 2014

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