Handle your teenager’s heartbreak mindfully rather than letting your over-reactive parental instincts get the better of you. Don't express sympathy or dismiss their rejection. Allow them to express themselves. Avoid directing them to be hopeful by thinking of future relationships or by creating short-term distractions. Withhold your heartbreak tales. Listen to theirs instead.
If you are a parent of a teenager, this may not be applicable at this very moment, but it’s highly probable that this may be important in your future.
We soothed them as babies, put band-aids on scrapes and scratches, and did all that we could think of to help them feel better. As our children grow up, the odds of their hearts getting broken by their girlfriends or boyfriends is highly probable. And as their parents, we may be inclined toward “just wanting to fix it.”
Depending on the circumstances you may have a hard time controlling the impulse to go give them, him or her, a piece of your mind — stressing how mean, bad, or hurtful they were to your son or daughter.
You can see the caption on Snapchat now: “Jamie’s Mom SNAPS” (pun intended)
Then of course you can watch it over and over and over again in HD video on Instagram, Facebook, links to Twitter, YouTube and social media that have just or yet to be launched.
The more proactive way to help your teen is to be present and mindful rather than reactive as above.
Words Can Hurt Or Heal
“Don’t Feel Bad”
Any statement that is on the tip of your tongue that starts with, “Don’t feel bad….” go in the hurting column.
Intellectually and inherently we really do want our son or daughter to stop feeling bad, however the fact of the matter is they are feeling bad.
It’s not awesome, we don’t want it, nor do they, but it is true for them in this moment and their feelings are valid.
Allowing our teen to express and take ownership of what they are feeling will help in creating a strong foundation from which to heal from now and in their future. You can lead by example. “I am so sorry that you feel so hurt”, then invite them to tell you how and what they are feeling and encourage them to reply using, “I am…(sad/mad/angry/etc) or I feel …” statements.
“You’ll Get Another Boyfriend/Girlfriend”
Undoubtedly you are correct, but in this moment is it better to be right or kind?
Your teenager can’t nor wants to fathom the idea that they will ever have another relationship. Redirecting them to start thinking about the new boy or girl does nothing to help heal their hearts from this relationship. Comments suggesting they can replace the relationship does not support healing from the one they dealing with in the present.
“Can I Get You Something….?”
Whether the something you are offering is food, drink, or a new something as a means of distracting them from feeling the pain, is not supporting them.
Of course, you don’t want your teenager to stop eating or hydrating as a means to further their poor feelings, however, offering them a pint of ice cream or a trip to the shopping mall is a short-term solution with no long-term gains.
Distracting them may also help to alleviate our own discomfort over the situation despite the fact that our intentions come from a well meaning place. Not feeling the bad feelings or postponing feeling the bad feelings as they are happening is not unlike distracting them from feeling the good feelings, something we wouldn’t want to do for ourselves or our children.
Listen With Your Heart
The most effective way we can help our teens experiencing a break up is to be a good listener.
Effective communication with our teens can often best be cultivated by being present when they are sharing.
As the adult, we may know more from experience, we may know more or different truths, we may believe different things about relationships they have yet to discover. Offering up the stories of our experiences may be best told at another time.
Your teen has a lot to express through words and likely tears, they want to be heard and providing a safe place for them to do so is by you being open to hearing them.