Spotting a Fear of Rejection in Children

Believe it or not, even young children can have a fear of rejection. As a parent, you may think making friends comes naturally to children. You see it all the time at the playground, children that have never met before spontaneously play together, sometimes pausing barely long enough to introduce themselves.

Yet making long-term friends is harder then it looks. Some children take a while to get the hang of it.

Occasionally, a child may fail at an attempt, or several attempts to make friends, which leads to a fear of rejection. This fear of rejection makes it very hard for them to form and maintain friendships.

What Is a Fear of Rejection?
Your child may begin to fear that something that she will do, or how she will act, will cause her to be rejected by her friends or family. This can lead to inhibited behavior, where the child is afraid to try anything for fear it will cause her to be ostracized.

It can also make kids overly clingy in the relationships that they do have, demandingconstant reassurance from those close to them.

When suffering with a fear of rejection, your child lets others' perceptions (or what your child believes are others' perceptions) color how he views himself. For this child, being rejected means that he is inadequate or unworthy.

Signs of a Fear of Rejection
It may not be immediately clear what is wrong with your child. She may become withdrawn and overly critical of others, which is a way to protect herself from a potential rejection. If you hear your child constantly running down other kids at school, it could signal a social fear.

If your child suddenly stops enjoying school or outside activities, it could also stem from a fear of rejection.

Not all the signs are emotional. Physical manifestations include frequentl complaints of feeling ill or a tendency to be lethargic. You may see your child generally moping around.

Overcoming Fear of Rejection
Overcoming a fear of rejection is a multi-step process, and it will not happen overnight. You will need to work with your child to build up his self-esteem.

It is especially important to give him the tools to prevent negative self-talk. If your child has trouble making friends or doesn't get invited to an event, he may say that it's because he's dumb or weird.

This type of thinking can be countered to help your child build a more positive outlook, if your child begins to think, "Sally doesn't want to play with me because I am dumb," she has to stop that thought and say, "Sally doesn't want to play with me right now because she is already playing with Jane".

Visualization is the key to changing negative behavior. You can work with your child to help him visualize how he will go up to a schoolmate and ask him to play. You can even do role-playing so your child feels really confident.

Confidence is the key. If your child approaches another child with confidence, that child is more likely to agree to play.

Your child also needs to understand that you do have to try and try again. You can arrange non-competitive play encounters, such as a story or craft time, where the children will naturally interact with each other. Talking to other parents and arranging play dates is another good solution.

Help your child to build one or two good friendships that will last. Circles of friends have a way of expanding over time, and the support of those one or two friends will help your child have a greater confidence (and a couple of allies) in social situations.

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