"The troubles of adolescence eventually all go away – it’s just like a really long, bad cold." — Dawn Ruelas
Think back to when you were 17 – remember how powerful and all-consuming the feeling of infatuation was? It is for adults, too, but there’s something particularly fervent about adolescent love (drama drama drama!)
Teens enter into (and adios) many romantic relationships before they reach adulthood. At this age, emotion is King. They fall in love in a matter of minutes and out by the end of the week. Even though it’s all part of the learning process, I still shudder when I get the frustrated text from my teen that says, "I am SO done with him!"
Everything seems laced with drama during the teenage years. I’ve already had a front-row seat to a dozen breakups, and my oldest isn’t even 18! Sometimes it can be hard to be truly supportive; while no parent wants to see their child in pain, most of us know that teenage love simply doesn’t last and adolescent breakups are a fact of life.
When faced with my kids’ latest soap opera, to help them weather the storm I make every effort to:
LISTEN. I encourage them to talk about what they’re feeling. I’ve always believed it’s better to express powerful emotions than to suppress them (better out than in!) The most important and meaningful thing I can do for my teenagers is to be quiet and listen to what they’re saying, and perhaps as importantly, for what they’re not saying.
ASK QUESTIONS about what they’re thinking and feeling. This shows I support and care about them and gives them a safe place to clarify their thoughts. I do NOT tell them to "just get over it". This could seriously backfire and communicate to them that their feelings are not valid.
BE POSITIVE and remind them that I understand it feels as if the world is coming down around their ears, but in time it will get easier (my favorite mantra is "This Too Shall Pass"). Sometimes I suggest they write down what they might do differently next time, and what they learned from this relationship (though this is often adamantly nixed by my daughter, who hates homework).
ENCOURAGE them to spend quality time with their friends, preferably of the same gender. Peers provide the best emotional support because they speak the same language. It’s one thing for Mom or Dad to commisserate and soothe, but it’s another entirely for your BFF to tell you it’s going to be okay and that he wasn’t good enough for you anyway! Laughter with friends is the best medicine.
REASSURE them that this is the time in their lives they’re supposed to be dating lots of different people! That’s not to say that they won’t have some longer-term relationships, or that there’s no such thing as a high school romance becoming a lifelong commitment, but these relationships are usually the exception and not the rule.
REMIND them that they’re not a failure and there will be many relationships in their future. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard "I’ll NEVER find someone to love me like he did!" Gimme a break! Still, without being gushy (one of my pet peeves), I try to get them to focus on their positive characteristics and remind them of how much they are loved by their friends and family.
BE PATIENT. Breakups can be gut-wrenching, particularly during adolescence. Even if you can clearly see the reasons behind the final break (or are secretly relieved because you never liked the guy in the first place), keep in mind this is VERY REAL for your teenager. When I feel myself getting impatient, I try to remember this point and treat their feelings with respect and compassion.
I also offer lots of hugs and encourage spending time with Mother Nature. After a breakup, I remind my daughter that a hike in a beautiful place can really cure what ails you.
And if all else fails, I hand them a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and just step out of the way.