Being a parent is hard. It’s especially hard (and heartbreaking) when your kid has just learned they didn’t make the team they worked so hard to join. You want so badly to make it all better, but feel absolutely helpless.
I remember three years ago, my son Andrew shuffling, head down, back to the car after not finding his name on the final JV team roster that was posted on the high school athletic department door. I felt a strange mixture of despair and utter unpreparedness. Everything I started to say seemed so trite and unfitting, so I just hugged him and kept repeating, “Oh, Andrew, I’m so sorry.”
Naturally kind of quiet, he didn’t offer any commentary. Just went to his room. The following day, Andrew was more chipper and talkative. Said he was looking forward to his travel team season starting.
And that was that. The emotional fallout his dad and I were expecting never happened.
I imagine most parents get that “oh crap! what do I say? what do I do?” feeling when it comes to this situation. I started writing this post giving advice from my own perspective, but then it occurred to me that I should be getting it straight from kids. How better for us parents to find out what they need, than to just ask them!
So, here are 12 responses from 12 teens who’ve lived through rejection and gone on to find success on other teams, the same team next year, or in a completely different activity.
(Sorry most of the answers start with “don’t.” When it comes to surveying kids, you sort of get what you get.)
1.”I don’t want to hear ‘Oh, you were robbed! You deserve to be on that team! It’s all politics! The coach is an idiot! I can’t believe they picked him over you!’ Those things don’t help me or motivate me to work any harder. They just make me mad and more frustrated.” — Andrew, W.
2.”If I’m distraught and crying, just give me a hug or sit there and put your arm around me. I’m probably not ready for a lecture or advice yet.” –Lauren S.
3.”It might help to try to make me laugh, but if you try and I don’t laugh…then don’t keep trying.” –William R.
4.”If I go in my room and shut the door, you don’t need to follow me. Just give me some time. I’ll come out when I’m ready to talk, if I’m ready to talk.” –A.J. S.
5.”Don’t call Grandma or start texting all the other moms and tell them how upset I am and the other players didn’t deserve to make it and the coach is stupid. Well, if you’re going to do that, don’t do it when I’m around.” — Kaitlyn P.
6.”I might not be that upset. I mean, before you decide that I should be devastated, just see how I’m acting. If I’m not acting upset, then you probably don’t need to be upset or get hung up on talking about it.” –Josh C.
7.”Maybe remind me of something else that I’m looking forward to. When I didn’t make the softball team, my mom said that meant we could go somewhere for spring break because I wouldn’t be tied down to the team. So we started talking about vacation stuff and it made me feel a little better.” –Kristin L.
8.”It’s good when they name the stuff they’re proud of you for and we kind of talk about what we’ve learned or what we can do better next time. Maybe they’ll hug me and we’ll watch TV or something.” –Matt M.
9.”You’ll get ’em next time. Give me confidence to try again.” –Sam H.
10.”We don’t want our parents interfering or trying to give their advice when we’re upset. We just need time. Maybe they can ask ‘is there anything I can do?’ That’s better than trying to give their personal ideas for why we didn’t make something. Unless we come to our parents, first space and time is better.” –Reese E. (and her whole group of friends who all agreed)
11.”I want my parents to be supportive, I guess. And have them be positive.”–Ethan I.
12.”I like the ‘short memory’ concept. It’s okay to be sad, but you gotta move onto the next thing. Try out for another team or get into something else you like.”–Ellie R. (more advice to kids than parents, but I felt like it was really wise)
While this input may be helpful, remember that your kid is an individual who may or may not be like those above. And you know him/her better than anyone. Choose your reactions based on this knowledge. If he’s not a talker, don’t push him to discuss it. If she wants to punch something, then hold the pillow for her. But just remember, kids are almost always more resilient than we think they’ll be. Don’t be surprised if it’s less of a big deal than you expected.