Over the past few months, I’ve chatted with parents whose kids have faced recent disappointments, like not getting a job they’d hoped for to not getting into a school they were counting on.
It sure can sting to get a “no,” no matter how nicely phrased the notice is. Receiving a rejection (and feeling rejected) sucks, especially if it’s something we were really hoping would work out.
It’s interesting — as a parent (or as an adult for other kids I know well and care deeply about), seeing my kids hurt hurts. A lot. Yes, it’s different, as I didn’t personally receive the “no” so to say it’s the same isn’t accurate, though the intensity is similar — because I can’t fix it, especially as they get older. And I want to. I want both of us to avoid feeling that hurt. Because it hurts.
I’m finding it useful to remind myself of this:
Our kids will face bumps in the road. They will get scratches and bruises and hurt sometimes. (We ALL do.) Because bumps are part of humaning. We don’t need to swoop in and save them. Our job is not to make the road bump-free (nor can we, anyway).
We can offer a hand if we want or an encouraging word if they are hesitating or have stumbled and are trying to get back up. We don’t need to add more bumps to the road intentionally nor push them down, certainly, though our job is not to level the road. Our job is to remember for ourselves and to remind our kids that they can handle the bumps. Because they were made for walking this road. And so were we.
So when our kids get a “no”? Rather than trying to avoid the feelings, move them through their hurt at our speed (their process for processing may be different than ours — and that’s okay!), or immediately get into “fixing” mode, what if we instead started by holding space for them (and ourselves)?
Offering a hug (if wanted), a note to the effect of “I’m really sorry to hear that; I know you were hoping XXX would work out,” some time and space, a meal they like, a listening ear when they are ready to talk (which might take longer than we’d like it to, though that’s okay), and phoning our own friend if we need to talk? This space can ultimately soothe more effectively than any knee-jerk “fix” we might attempt. Because sometimes we need to let the feelings of hurt run their course. If we impede the flow, then the hurt gets stuck and we’ll just hurt worse/longer.
Our kids were made for walking this bumpy road.