The physical pain of peer rejection is real and it hurts. Badly. Although we can’t avoid pain in life, neither for ourselves nor our children, we can give our children tools to grow resilience. In our Becoming Social Group at Well Baby Center, we explore strategies for developing empathy for others, understanding what it means to be a friend, and how one might navigate the difficult social seas of early childhood.
Rejection can cause real strife and children need help to develop the tools to overcome hurtful experiences. This is highlighted in an article published in Business Insider: Neuroscience researcher reveals 4 rituals that will make you happier. Neurologists who were interviewed on the biological impacts of rejection noted that it is imperative to our wellbeing that we feel loved and accepted. They find that rejection causes damaging responses that are similar to feelings of physical pain. Read this valuable synopsis of the findings:
“We need to feel love and acceptance from others. When we don’t it’s painful. And I don’t mean “awkward” or “disappointing.” I mean actually painful.
Neuroscientists did a study where people played a ball-tossing video game. The other players tossed the ball to you and you tossed it back to them. Actually, there were no other players; that was all done by the computer program.
But the subjects were told the characters were controlled by real people. So what happened when the “other players” stopped playing nice and didn’t share the ball?
Subjects’ brains responded the same way as if they experienced physical pain. Rejection doesn’t just hurt like a broken heart; your brain feels it like a broken leg.
Via The Upward Spiral: In fact, as demonstrated in an fMRI experiment, social exclusion activates the same circuitry as physical pain … at one point they stopped sharing, only throwing back and forth to each other, ignoring the participant. This small change was enough to elicit feelings of social exclusion, and it activated the anterior cingulate and insula, just like physical pain would.” Read the full article here.
A Becoming Social Group can be a valuable resource for your child. The group is designed for children to experience a fun, interactive session in the Well Baby Center play yard. Parents will observe and participate in the children’s social interactions so that they can process their experiences in a discussion group towards the end of the exercise.
Deborah Groening is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Doctor of Psychology (PsyD), and Certified Infant-Mental Health Specialist. She is also the Clinic Director of Well Baby Center.