We’re all familiar with puppy love. Given adolescent intelligence (or lack thereof) coupled with a higher hormone rate and lower emotional maturity, it’s part of the natural process that a teenager’s first love will be blown all out of proportion and turned, in the teenager’s mind, into the “one true love” that he or she can’t live without. While as parents and mature adults we know better, it doesn’t change the fact that getting dumped is an extremely painful experience for a teenager, especially if it’s a first. Here are a few sage pieces of advice to help you cope with a heartbroken teen.
Don’t Downplay Their Pain – some parents make the mistake of saying inanities to their heartbroken teen like “It Will Get Easier Over Time” or some such. Yes, we know it will, but we’ve had far more years to build up a tolerance to emotional pain than the average teenager. Because they haven’t lived as long or gone through as much as we have, always remember that the pain they are experiencing will probably be the worst they have ever encountered in their relatively short lives. Trying to get them to forget the pain by actively countering it only makes it worse. Let the pain run its course. Then, redirect their emotions towards something more lighthearted. Make them laugh if you can, or help them remember something that will make them smile.
Offer Constructive Advice – once your teenager’s pain has lessened a bit, either by catharsis or by your making your heartbroken teen laugh a bit, THEN you should offer constructive advice to your heartbroken teen. Focus their attention towards logical solutions to what they see as an earth shattering problem. Don’t tell your heartbroken teen what to do; use leading questions that help him or her come to the conclusions on their own. This forces their minds to work, and the very act of applying logic to what is essentially an emotional problem will focus their attention away from their hurt.
“I Told You So” and “I’m Older So I Know Better” DOES NOT WORK – this is something that, sadly, most parents are prone to. Nagging your heartbroken teen during a time of emotional crisis is a sure fire way to make your teen dig in his or her heels and rebel against you. Avoid making what you say sound like a lecture or a dressing down because this will only convince your heartbroken teen about the “rightness” of his or her decision, despite evidence to the contrary. And naturally, since they will think that they’re “right”, it just makes the breakup all the more “wrong”, amplifying their confusion and pain.
DON’T Forbid Vices – lastly, some parents naturally worry that their heartbroken teen will get into something like smoking, alcohol, or illegal drugs as a means of escapism from the heartache. Sadly, this HAS been known to happen often, but remember that the best way to get your heartbroken teen to try something out is to actually forbid it. During this time of pain your heartbroken teen will be even more prone to react in this fashion. So, unless your heartbroken teen brings up the topic, don’t even mention that they should try and avoid the bad juju. If they do bring it up, deal with it as diplomatically as possible without making it sound like a prohibition. One good way is to simply tell them that they’re mature enough to make their own decisions, and that you trust them to think things through for themselves. This implied faith in them serves to both make them feel better, and forces them to think and act instead of just reacting to their pain.