6 Ways To Deal With Rejection From Wounded Children.

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*Editor's note- This is a guest post from our good friend Jennie Owens. She and her husband Lynn, support foster and adoptive families through their nonprofit organization, www.foreverhomes.org. Jennie also speaks to parenting groups and leads retreats for foster and adoptive families. She provides training and one-on-one coaching services to parents through their clinic, Canyon Lakes Family Counseling, in Kennewick, WA. You can also visit her blog here.

Dealing with rejection from your child is an uphill battle. No parent wants to face this. We want to believe we can love them through their trauma. How do you successfully parent your child but deal with their rejection at the same time?

“WE had FUN with DAD,” hissed my daughter, as she met me at the door with an angry sneer. Her glare and belittling tone once again communicated, what seemed to be, sheer hatred of me. We had just returned from camping at the Lewis and Clark Trail State Park. My husband had secretly given me the choice of driving the nice, newer car with our three children or the old, Ford Escort carrying the smelly Newfoundland dog, whose rancid stench had come from playing in the river all weekend. I chose the dog.

Her words hardly represented an isolated jab. In fact, she had been doling out insults like candy for months, finding any way she could, to verbally assault me. Later, I cried into my husband’s shoulder. Between heaving sobs and strings of slobber I said, “I can’t do this anymore! I just can’t take one more jab!”

It may sound crazy that an emotionally stable, confident, grown woman would be so tied up in knots about emotional barbs coming from a child. One would think it would have been easy to brush off her rejection because she was “just a kid.” But at times it just wasn’t.

If, like me, you’re dealing with the pain of a child who constantly pushes you away or rejects you, here are several things I’ve learned.

1. Don’t take it personally.

I know, I know. Easier said than done. Most of the time when my husband told me “Don’t take it personally” I wanted to punch him in the face. Those words didn’t seem very helpful, but he was right.

When dealing with a wounded child, we need to picture ourselves like a lifeguard, going into an ocean of rejection and pain to help them. Because of their past trauma, our child is drowning in pain, and drowning people do strange things out of fear. Most of the time, they fight against the very person who is trying to save them. My daughter didn’t hate me. She was afraid I didn’t love her.

It really isn’t personal. You could be Ward and June Cleaver and a wounded child would still push you away. Not only has trauma changed the brains of your child, they are trying to protect themselves from getting hurt again. They aren’t trying to attack you, even though at times it certainly feels that way.

2. Take breaks.

I remember a time when my husband and I were on the beach in Florida. I kept trying to stand up in the water, but the waves just kept coming and coming, each one knocking me down as soon as I would begin to get my bearings. It was impossible to stand up, regardless of how strong I tried to be.

Just like those ocean waves, the constant waves of belittling and rejection can knock down the best of parents. Just because the rejection comes from a young child doesn’t necessarily lessen the hurt, as if a smaller person’s words pack less of a punch.

In those times, we need to be able to get away and regroup. Take breaks so you can rest and come back to interact with your children with enough strength to not get pulled under by the waves of their rejection.

3. Spend time with those who encourage.

In those times of feeling so discouraged and beaten down, we need to spend time around people who encourage us and help lift us up. It is impossible to maintain a positive attitude toward children who spend the day rejecting us without spending time with those who help counteract with positive messages.

Support groups can provide a great resource. I can’t tell you how much the women from our adoptive mom’s support group encourage me. All I have to do is send out a quick SOS text and I have several women encouraging me to keep going.

Even if you can’t get away to spend time with friends, ask a few family members or friends to text you reminders of your good qualities or how much they love you throughout the day.

4. Infuse your life with positives.

Surround yourself with positive messages. Listen to a podcast with noise-cancelling headphones while your little one throws the mother of all temper tantrums in the living room. Write yourself positive notes or scripture and post them around the house. Read an uplifting book during a mandatory quiet/nap time for your kids. Do an art project with the kids and include a positive message to yourself in yours. Find creative ways to include positive messages into your life that can cancel out the negative ones you’re receiving from your children.

5. Continue pursuing outside activities.

At one point, my children’s therapist encouraged me to get a job outside of the home, because she recognized that I needed something in my life to focus on besides my kids and their issues.

Find a hobby that you enjoy. Take an art class or join a pinochle team. Get a part-time job. Do something that reminds you of who you are beyond your role as a parent and that allows you to have a little fun in the process. Since fun is something that tends to get sucked out of our homes by wounded children faster than a hoover picks up dust, we must be purposeful in continuing to do things we find fun.

6. Change expectations.

It took me years to realize that I had walked into this whole foster and adoption thing with unrealistic expectations. When I thought about becoming a parent, I pictured a chubby toddler running joyously into my arms every time they saw me. After we adopted three older foster children, I had to let go of the expectation that these kids would respond to me like children who hadn’t experienced pain and rejection. When their rejection of me became unbearable, however, I had to allow myself to grieve the fact that reality didn’t match my dreams. At times I just needed a good old-fashioned cry so I could process through the discrepancy and then move on.

Are you in the trenches of parenting a wounded child? Share your story with us in the comment section below.

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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

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Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.