depressed teen boy

Imagine this: applause erupts as your daughter stands to receive her third award of the evening. She beams with excitement while walking on stage. You listen to the praise of her peers and teachers as your heart swells with joy. Their words confirmed what you knew: she’s an incredible child. However, at the same time, you ached for your son, who didn’t receive any awards that night, even though he’s fantastic too.

He did well in his classes, and his fun-loving, kind personality won him many friends. Still, he didn’t get any awards. On the ride home, your son wonders why he didn’t get any awards. You look at him with compassion, as you’ve experienced these heartbreaking feelings before, too. You know what it’s like to anticipate affirmation and come away empty-handed. You understand how hard it is to celebrate with friends while trying to mask your pain. How can you help your kids deal with rejection? Here are some ways to prepare them for success and disappointment.

Children have different gifts and talents.

As you sat in the car that night, you reminisced about the swim meet last summer when your son was the one winning the awards. His sister won some, too, but that night, he excelled. God created each of your kids with individual talents and unique abilities. Faithfulness in using our gifts is more valuable than receiving the accolades of others. God sees our diligence, hard work, and perseverance, even when others don’t.

God gives us identity and value.

Your son can do other things, like build impressive Lego creations, draw detailed bridges, or memorize Bible verses and facts daily. However, none of these abilities define him. They don’t give him his worth any more than his challenges diminish his worth. Your children have natural value simply because God made them in His image. No other living creature has received such a gift. The criticism or praise of people can’t change the reality of who they are. The universe’s Creator profoundly wants them, loves them, and delights in them. He died to make a path for them to be close to Him.

Jesus understands rejection.

In becoming human, Jesus displayed the heart of God. He spent His days healing, teaching, loving, and pouring Himself out for those He created. Ultimately, they rejected Him. They spit on Him, falsely accused Him, beat Him, and crucified Him, so He gets rejection. Jesus’ heart goes out to your children when they’re overlooked. He invites them to share their feelings with Him, not just the pretty ones, but the unfiltered, raw emotions too. He understands. This vulnerable place can be the exact spot where they encounter God. He can comfort them, bring beauty out of their pain, and heal their wounds.

“I’d choose you.”

There’s a children’s book called I’d Choose You by John Trent. In this book, a mother elephant shares several scenarios in which she would choose her son over any other child, no matter who performed best. Any parent wants their kids to have a deep confidence that even if another person does something better than them, you would still choose them, simply because they’re yours. They’re treasured and loved, just as they are.

Rejoice with those who celebrate.

Your kids enjoy cheering for their friends, whether it’s a swim meet or an awards ceremony. It’s fun to watch the ones we love succeed. However, it can be challenging to celebrate when someone else’s win means our loss. Choosing to celebrate our siblings’ or friends’ achievements strengthens friendships and develops humility. You can help your kids grow in this by praying with them and leading them to tell God about their feelings and asking for His joy. Then, they can take a step toward celebration, telling their sibling they’re proud of them, writing a “Congratulations” card, or sending an encouraging text. Lastly, you can affirm them and reinforce the character they’ve displayed by sharing how proud you are of them.

Define genuine success.

Imagine a teacher pulling you aside to discuss a recent incident in P.E. with your son. One of his classmates was struggling with an activity, and your son noticed and took it upon himself to help the boy, who stayed by his side as they played the game. Hearing this would likely bring happy tears to your eyes as you rejoice in your son’s compassion displayed that day. Galatians 5:6 tells us that the only thing that counts is faith revealing itself through love. God looks at your children’s hearts. He values love and faith and honors integrity and good character. Your child needs to know that you do, too.

If you look to achievements or good grades as the measure of success, you’re setting your child up for future issues. Some might be tempted to cheat their way to a satisfactory report card, while others may define themselves by their scores, being devastated by poor grades or conceited by good ones. Your children need to know that grades do matter, and you’ll celebrate good ones together, but report cards exist primarily to show us where there’s room for improvement. A poor grade can indicate the need to spend more time on a subject or approach it differently. It may highlight room for personal growth in perseverance, diligence, or attentiveness. Sometimes, it can even alert us to a possible learning disorder or difficulty.

True success isn’t measured by the grade on a test or an award but by what’s in the heart. Rejection affects everyone. Your kids will be left out, overlooked, or even shunned. When this happens, you have the chance to point them to Jesus and help them grow stronger and more empathetic through their pain. Take every opportunity to affirm your children and instruct them in authentic success, the value of integrity, and the beauty of faith. The worth of these things will last forever.

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