Any kind of change can be challenging to endure, especially when you already have a million changes occurring inside and outside your body throughout puberty. During this stage of development, teenagers may begin experiencing feelings for other individuals.
Something to keep in mind when considering how to approach a teen heartbreak. A teenager’s prefrontal cortex is not fully developed, and this part of the brain is what controls judgments, emotional reasoning, and risk-taking. Now, let’s add the lack of life experience; heartbreaks are truly painful!
Tips for Supporting Your Teen Through Heartbreak
Do not minimize their feelings.
Society tends to jump to the “you’re young, you’ll be okay” or define the length of the relationship with the intensity of emotions. When kids are dating, they are, for the most part, pretty naive entering this unfamiliar territory. Some kids jump in immediately with “I love you,” some are pressured with sexual desires, and some are yearning for some kind of attachment and connection due to their home life.
Remember that they are still developing.
Think about when a baby falls compared to an older child falling; when the baby falls, they do not put their arms out to try and catch themselves, but when the older child falls, they most likely put their arms out to try and catch themselves almost in an unconscious reaction to the fall. As we grow and life experiences occur, we learn consciously and unconsciously ways to protect ourselves in harmful situations.
Listen and validate their feelings.
When a young relationship occurs, the individuals do not have that life experience yet to have some sort of protective factors in place. Young relationships are more likely to give it their all, have their heart on their sleeves, and trust with everything they have. This creates the perfect formula for deep emotional pain occurring after teen heartbreak. Teenagers are not going to listen to most logic or advice during this time. Be there for your teen and practice some active listening.
Help them learn helpful ways to heal.
Remember that even though this teen may resemble a young adult more than a child, they still need comfort! If your teen does not seem to want to talk or is projecting feelings toward you, give them space if they ask for it. Find creative ways to comfort them, such as making their favorite meal, putting on their favorite movie, or even just washing their blankets with a familiar scent. You may feel helpless watching your teen be hurt without being able to make everything better, but the little actions you are doing right now are helping.
Keep an eye on signs of suicidal ideation and/or self-harming behaviors.
Deep emotional pain may create a sense of helplessness, depression, and doom that nothing will ever get better. Feelings can become very strong, and feelings of rejection, insecurity, and embarrassment; during this time, your teen may begin to have self-harming thoughts. There are many options for your teen to get support, and it may be challenging to assess your teen’s mental health if they do not want to talk to you about this experience yet. There are many resources that you can educate yourself with on what these signs look like. Familiarize yourself with supports available in your area, such as crisis text line or other crisis resources your teen could access. Family doctors, school counselors, and mental health professionals can be great supports.
Be patient; things will get better with time. Your teen is grieving a loss which can be even harder if they see this person in school or other environments, maybe even seeing them date another individual. Your teen may not be open to talking immediately but be patient; sometimes, just sitting in the silence and sitting IN it with them can be comforting. Don’t try to rush this process. It is going to be hard to see your child suffering but remind yourself that this experience is the first to many, and they will remember what helped and what did not when looking back.
Once you feel like it is an appropriate time, have some spontaneous bonding time.
Once your teen seems to be healing, think of bonding activities they enjoy that would help open the door for a happy memory. When exploring ideas, think about what you feel would be helpful for them as they grow in life. You will not always be there for them as they grow up and deal with painful emotions, but you can use this as an opportunity to help them heal throughout their life. Self-care is a great reinforcement tool, especially after a breakup, that may make them feel not great about themselves. Spa Day? Hair cut? Nature walk?
Watching your child experience heartbreak is not easy, but remember that this is normal and there is no right or wrong way to feel. As you support your child throughout this process, find support to help you! Allowing your child to have space to feel and heal from their first heartbreak will help them begin to build essential life skills that they will use forever.
The GoodTherapy Registry might be helpful to you and/or your experiencing teen heartbreak. We have thousands of Therapists listed with us who would love to walk with you on your journey. Find the support you need today!
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.
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