Helping Teens and Young Adults Cope with Rejection
I think some rejection is helpful.
It can show us where we need to improve.
It can help us build resilience.
It can teach us how to be persistent.
However, children with developmental trauma and experience with the foster care system often internalize rejection on a much deeper level.
A few examples of traumatic rejection are:
Not being accepted by your family members for your sexual orientation
Being abandoned by one or both parents
Being rejected or shamed for your body size or the color of your skin
This type of rejection can be traumatic, making the world feel scary and threatening.
When teens and young adults don't feel accepted into a family, typically, their anxiety increases, and their ability to create healthy relationships is challenging, to say the least. This is because, throughout history, acceptance into a group of people has equaled safety and survival. When humans don't feel accepted, we feel threatened. Feeling threatened often leads to the fight, flight and freeze trauma responses. These responses are an adaptation to the trauma they've experienced and are not their fault or in their control.
With trauma, the body responds without engaging the brain's pre-frontal cortex, also known as our rational brain. So when we see children use aggression (fight), isolate themselves/run (flight), or shut down completely (freeze), we know their trauma responses have taken over.
Understanding trauma is foundational, but you might also wonder, "how do we help?"
Provide unconditional acceptance and connection.
You might think, "But wait, if I do that won't they get worse? Won't they take advantage of me?"
The answer is usually "no."
When children are rejected by their biological family, they must repeatedly learn that they are loved no matter what. The wound their parents left behind is so deep that it will not heal with a typical amount of acceptance. Their well is empty and will need to be refilled many times before the belief that they are unlovable is changed. It might sound impossible, but it's not.
Our brains are malleable throughout our lifespans, and with consistent acceptance and connection, we can rewire our beliefs. Of course, this doesn't happen for everyone, but it is possible for many children impacted by trauma and loss.
This universal human need for acceptance and connection is why I helped create the video above and the Connections Matter Academy, along with two other trauma experts and 30+ people with lived experience in foster care.
In addition to Beth Tyson Trauma Consulting, I work for Connect Our Kids, a FREE tech platform to help social workers, CASA volunteers, and others wrap children "aging out" of foster care with supportive and accepting people. It could be an extended family member like a great aunt or 3rd cousin or a previous teacher the child was close with growing up. Our technology is being used in 44 states throughout the U.S. and has reconnected thousands of children to family and fictive kin.
Learn more at ConnectOurKids.org and make sure you like and subscribe to the Connections Matter Academy on YouTube to help more people find our innovative family finding and engagement tools developed by nuclear physicist Jennifer Jacobs, and former child in foster care, Jessica Stern
For more free resources and education on childhood trauma, please join me in my private Facebook group, Emotiminds, or subscribe to Beth Tyson Trauma Consulting's monthly Childhood Trauma Newsletter.
If you are raising or working with children in kinship care, aka grandparents raising their grandchildren, check out my tenderhearted children's book about a scared and angry koala who wants to know why he can't live with his mom and dad anymore. A Grandfamily for Sullivan is a therapeutic tool for grandparents, child welfare workers, therapists, and teachers caring for children raised by their relatives.