What's got you all tangled up?
College application acceptances and rejections continue to consume many a household right now.
With these letters come lots of big emotions. Excitement, uncertainty, anticipation, disappointment, joy, pain; you know; the whole spectrum of emotions.
Some of these rejections reinforce negative feelings our young adults have about their self-worth.
So how do we help our young adults manage their emotions?
How do we help them deal with disappointments?
The key to helping them navigate the ocean of emotions is Empathy.
Empathy defined: 'the ability to understand and share the feelings of another'. When we have empathy for someone we try to see things from their perspective and come alongside them in their pain.
Having empathy for another is a hard place to be, because, for most of us, pain and big emotions are very uncomfortable. Our immediate instinct is to run the other way.
When we empathize, we listen without trying to fix the problem, we validate what the other is experiencing, letting them know that they are not alone and this connects us to them. Empathy is not judgmental and critical; it just sits alongside the person struggling.
What kinds of statements demonstrate empathy? "Wow, that stinks"; "I don't know what to say right now"; "that would disappoint me too"; "what do you need right now"? These types of statements connect us with our young adults. They know that you are there for them, to support them, and help them through the situation (See Dec. 19th post for more on this).
What kinds of statements lack empathy? "At least you got into....(fill in the blank)"; "want a sandwich?" (you laugh, but this kind of question wants to escape the pain as quickly as possible); "suck it up buttercup; life is tough"; "you can't always get what you want". These types of statements enrage our young adults; they don't engage them.
We need to connect with our young adults before they will be willing to receive your redirection. Connection with your student is the first step toward moving forward.
Be patient as you walk with your student through the discomfort and emotions of it all.
Connect first; then redirect and help them to see things from different perspectives. Redirection might not happen for a few days until they process all the emotions. Below are some ideas for redirection.
What are some perspective shifts we can encourage them to consider? 1. There are 5300 colleges in the USA; one will be the perfect fit for them. Is it possible their focus is on the top 1% of the schools in the US? 2. Your student is not alone in being declined admittance; its hard to talk about, their friends are also receiving these letters. Is it possible they are feeling alone and embarrassed? They are not alone. 3. What if you shifted your attention to the places you truly fit and to the places that really want you? Places where they can impact the most? 4. Some rejections are just protections in disguise; how can you make the best of this and see it as an opportunity?
What other ideas for perspective shift can you come up with?