‘Hey, You’re Not My Friend’ – Equipping Kids To Cope With Rejection

'Hey, You're Not My Friend' - Equipping Kids To Cope With Rejection | thisgratefulmama.com

A normally joyful girl leaves preschool happy then immediately succumbs to tears in the car when asked how her day was.

‘Today the kids were laughing at me, but I WASN’T being funny!’

Hugs, encouragement and more questions reveal that several children laughed while pointing at her in line.

Her feelings were hurt. My heart hurt.

I told her how sorry I was. We talked about possible reasons they laughed – maybe they weren’t laughing at her.

We discussed what to do if it happened again – ask them why they are laughing, and if needed, tell them she doesn’t like what they are doing and to please stop. Then if needed, find an adult to help.

She calmed down and didn’t bring it up again until dinner. This time she told the story differently. She decided someone else must have been funny. We may never know for sure, but for now, she’s not hanging onto it.

Phew. Crisis averted.

But maybe not?

The thing is, this is not the first time she’s been upset after school. Several other afternoons she sadly told me no one would let her play with them. Further questioning revealed that in those instances she did play with one or two other kids, but not in the group.

Initially, my husband and I figured it was the result of little misunderstandings. But the repetition and escalation of hurt feelings made us decide to ask her teacher about it.

The next class day, I spoke to her teacher. Our concern was well received. Apparently the kids often play in groups with one or two ‘leaders’ who like to direct play during free time. She explained our daughter is easy-going and often bounces between groups. She does often play one-on-one outside of the group. They had not observed her being upset or any direct exclusion but agreed to be watchful going forward.

I felt heard, and we had a plan – I felt relieved. 

Then, a child still in the hallway looked directly at our daughter and declared,

‘Hey! You’re NOT my friend!’

Thankfully, our daughter was not paying attention. She was busy entertaining her baby sister, so we quickly left. I was so grateful to hear the child’s shocked mom intervene behind us. I am certain she addressed it well.

Now I was the one choking back tears in the car. All those other sad moments were validated with five powerful words.

I feel deep sadness that at the age of just three, we need to teach our child how to deal with rejection.

Truthfully, I’m not sure why the age surprises me so much – I’ve heard our kids say things like ‘you can’t play with me’ to each other and to other kids before. No age is too young for other kids to try to exclude another – they are testing boundaries. We address it and move on. I think what saddens me most is that it seems to be happening to our daughter repeatedly and is causing increasing hurt.

Rejection is a feeling most adults can identify with – we’ve all felt rejected to a varying degree. We have adjusted our behaviors and internalized feelings in positive or negative ways after feeling rejected – whether deserved or not.

Regardless of the cause, rejection leaves a stinging wound – one I am sad our children will experience.

We can’t prevent it, but we can proactively EQUIP our kids to cope with rejection.

'Hey, You're Not My Friend' - Equipping Kids To Cope With Rejection | thisgratefulmama.com

Over the past week, I’ve been pondering and praying about how to do that. Another day I’ll flush these ideas out – for now they are best summed up by these three main points:

  1. Encourage kids to share their feelings about circumstances and relationships with us – whether those moments were joyful, hurtful, concerning, confusing, or exciting. We WANT to listen, validate, comfort, encourage and help.
  2. Our words and actions matter. Knowing what it feels like to be hurt helps us remember not to treat others that way. Teach our kids to be kind, defend others if they can, and be quick to apologize. Also, to change their behavior if they cause another to be hurt.
  3. Instill and confirm who they really are to us, and to God.  This experience confirms that no age is too young to start. They need to know these truths about WHO they are deep in their hearts:
    • WHO made them – and who HE is
    • HOW loved they are – by us and by God
    • No person determines your value – only God
    • Jesus knows about rejection and offers comfort and understanding

'Hey, You're Not My Friend' - Equipping Kids To Cope With Rejection | thisgratefulmama.com

 

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Graham Cracker ‘Gingerbread’ Houses – A Simple, Nut-Free Solution

Graham Cracker Gingerbread Houses A Simple Nut Free Solution | thisgratefulmama.com

Many of you know by now that baking is not my strong suit. Not only have I never baked gingerbread, I have had little success making frosting (of any kind) – seriously, there are friends who will attest to my comically disastrous frosting attempts.

The idea of ME successfully making a gingerbread house from scratch is unlikely. Making one that will withstand decorating by children…is, well, laughable. And completely unrealistic without multiple attempts. Frankly, I’m just not committed to mastering this.

So, I went looking for a nut-free gingerbread house kit. Although I’ve heard they exist, I was unable to find one. I was stuck. Inept and lacking motivation to make one of my own, and unable to find a safe option for our family. I even considered skipping baking by forking over the big bucks to buy a LEGO Gingerbread House.

Then, something remarkable happened. We received an invitation to join our son at preschool to decorate a gingerbread house. I was curious how these teachers, who carefully ensure their classroom is nut-free, would pull this off. Is one of them a master baker? Did they find those coveted ‘safe’ kits? And how on earth could they successfully assemble a gingerbread house for each child and have it be cost-effective?

A month in advance, parents were invited to donate supplies. But instead of a donation free-for-all, the school provided a list of specific products. Not only did they specify the type of candy or treat, they included brand name, nut-free wording that should be found on the label, and where to buy it. This ensured parents bought ‘safe’ products, and that they didn’t have to run all over town trying to find a specific brand. They knew exactly where to go. No hassle.

Because ALL supplies were safe, they were able to provide a mixed bag of candy for each child.

The ‘gingerbread’ houses were simply and inexpensively made using hot glue guns and graham crackers.

Genius.

To accommodate families with younger siblings, they made extra houses. Imagine my daughter’s (and my) surprise when they presented HER with a house, frosting and decorations. The crackers were glued together, and to the plate. They were stable enough for a 2-year-old to manhandle.

You guys, I was SO blessed! This preschool cares for each child AND family.

For many, a food-related activity might bring anxiety to an allergy parent. Or at least a heightened awareness requiring plenty of preparation. But because of careful planning, research and scrutiny of staff, every single food item was safe for nut allergies. Their attention to detail and safety has blessed our family time and time again since September.

How can I express gratitude for this type of care and concern for allergic children and families?

For those of you with no food allergies in your family, this may seem like no big deal. But to us, it means the health and safety of our child. It is immeasurable. It means we didn’t have to call ahead to pre-approve snacks or read labels. It means we didn’t have to go and search for the nut-free versions of similar candy, at who knows how many stores, to provide for our son. We were able to just show up and decorate without a concern.

It was wonderfully care-free.

As a result, two children were delighted and their mother left feeling waves of emotion – joyful, grateful, blessed, cared for.

And to the kind parent who carried our gingerbread houses to the car so I could pick up our daughter when she fell down…Thank you.

Tis the season.