Do you remember the first time your heart was broken?? I would be willing to bet that it was sometime during your teenage years, maybe even earlier than that. For most of us, the loss of our first relationship was probably one of the most devastating times in our lives, however; we moved on, dated again and found ourselves in happy healthy relationships as we aged. If we knew then what we know now, the end of a relationship would have been more tolerable for us and more manageable. Parents, chances are your teenagers are about to experience the very same thing you did once upon a time during their middle/high school career, and it is going to hurt them just as badly.
Teenagers experience a great deal of pain due to broken relationships. They often may go through periods of intense fear while in a relationship. The fear results from being afraid of losing this person they believe they truly love. Because of this kind of fear, they often become very possessive of the relationship and want to spend all their time together excluding all other friends and family. This pain and fear is real and it is, more often than not, unmanageable for them. As parents, you understand and know that life goes on, that the pain lessens, that there are “more fish in the sea;” and in all actuality, our first loves were never really “loves” at all. Teenagers DO NOT understand or know this. It is easy for parents to try to comfort them by telling them these things; but when they do, they may inadvertently minimize their teens’ pain and anguish, and potentially make the pain worse.
It is important to acknowledge your teens’ pain and actively listen to their story, feel their pain with them, hold them when they cry and do not tell on them to “just get over it.” In time they will be able to get over the break-up of the relationship and move on. Give them some space if they need it, but assure them that you are there to listen and not judge the ending of the relationship. It is important to teach them appropriate ways to manage pain like this, because parents know this will be the first of many broken hearts. Do not suggest inappropriate behaviors like getting even or “settling the score,” even if it is just to lighten their mood. Most importantly, look for ways to boost their self-confidence because chances are they are feeling defeated, have feelings of worthlessness and are ashamed and embarrassed. Encourage them to do the things that they are passionate about, to hang out with friends and to talk to you about their heartache.
It is normal for our teens to be sad and to show some signs of a depressed mood. Make sure you keep a watchful eye on them. Observe their sleeping patterns, eating patterns, isolation, markings on their body such as excessive bruising or unexplained cuts on parts of their body. If the depression persists and gets worse, it will be time to seek professional help. If you do determine that your teenager is getting worse, and the pain is persistent, and you are uncomfortable managing it yourself; please seek professional help. This can be an extremely damaging situation that can and will get worse if not managed.
The Village Counseling Center has skilled therapists who specialize in working with teens and young adults. We can help your teenager and offer advice to you as parents regarding ways to help your teens cope and manage. In time your teenager will want to date again. Chances are they will experience another ending of a relationship, especially when go off to college. With a good set of coping strategies and knowledge that can be offered through therapy, plus open discussions with you, their parents; the ending of the next relationship and the next relationship will not be as overwhelmingly difficult to navigate.