My 14-year-old daughter wasn’t invited to the school dance. As you can guess, she is very disappointed. How can I help her through it?
Erin Pier, school psychologist, Academy of Urban Learning
Not being asked to a dance can feel like the ultimate rejection, especially during adolescence, a time when self-worth is so heavily dependent on peer acceptance. The disappointment your child feels is very real, so it’s important not to trivialize her experience. Instead, acknowledge where she’s coming from and keep the following suggestions in mind:
- Offer perspective. Share a story about a time you weren’t asked to an important event and felt disappointed. Explain how you overcame it. Knowing you went through something similar will help her feel less alone.
- Give her space. Maybe she doesn’t want to talk about it. That’s normal. Encourage her to vent her disappointment somewhere, whether in a journal, through art, or by going for a walk. Write her a note and let her know you empathize with what she’s going through, and that you’ll be there to lend an ear when she’s ready.
- Emphasize her strengths. Not being asked will impact her self-esteem, so remind her of all the amazing things that make her the special person that she is. She is loved unconditionally, and now is a good time to remind her of that.
- Encourage her to ask someone. She could consider asking a friend or neighbor with whom she’s comfortable.
- Go anyway. If all her friends are going with dates and she doesn’t want to miss out on the fun, encourage her to find other pals who also weren’t invited and plan to go together. There’s plenty of fun to be had when you’re all dressed up with your friends, with or without a date.
- Plan a family fun night. She didn’t get asked, so she’s not going. Period. That’s a likely scenario, so plan a fun evening with the family. Go bowling. See a movie. Take a yoga class. Do something fun and memorable that she’s sure to love. That said, make sure to avoid the dinner hot-spots where crowds of dance-goers might be. She won’t want a reminder that she might be missing out.
The disappointment experienced when left uninvited to a big event can feel profound, but it’s far from the last time she’ll encounter this feeling in her life. Help her rebound from this event, and view it as an opportunity for developing coping strategies that will benefit her when future disappointments fall her way.