I well remember my first ‘real’ heartbreak. I was in grade 11 and his name was Greg. We’d been going out for about 2 months (so we were practically engaged!) when a friend of his passed on the message: it was all over.
I cried so much I could barely breathe. I couldn’t eat or sleep, and doing homework was obviously out of the question. I longed for a pill that would make me feel better but, according to my mother, such a thing didn’t exist. ‘Time heals,’ she said – which was spectacularly unhelpful at the time but which, I eventually learned, was the truth.
So watching my teen daughter’s first ‘real’ romance wind down and then finally come to a crashing end was painful for me – although no doubt more painful for her. She took a different route to recovery than me, eating everything she could lay her hands on and sleeping so much I started to wonder if perhaps she had nagana.
Heartbreak is a very real pain, as anyone who’s experienced it will know. In Victorian times, it was accepted that some young women, let down by their paramours, might actually expire from it – indeed, it was simply a risk of living in that era, as were the high incidence of life-threatening diseases and the real possibility of dying in childbirth.
What a parent can do
But none of this has any relevance to a modern teen coping with the age-old dilemma of a broken heart. And platitudes like ‘there are other fish in the sea’ are likely to elicit the wailed response: ‘You don’t understaaaand!’
You do, of course, but nothing you can say will mend that broken heart. All you can do, as a parent, is give even more love and attention, be even more understanding of apparently irrational behaviour, and listen if your teen chooses to talk to you about it. She may, however, opt to offload on her friends, and if she does, your job is simply not to feel offended or sidelined.
Generally speaking, teens bounce back pretty well – it’s one of the great advantages of youth. And ‘time heals’ is worth bearing in mind if you’re a parent too. Week by week I watched my daughter recover from her emotional trauma, and it wasn’t long before she was making new plans with her friends, eyeing out new talent and getting on with her life. Then, just as I thought the worst was behind us, she and the boyfriend made up.
Which brings me to another point: in the wake of your teen’s break-up, resist telling them how much you disliked the object of their affection anyway. It’s quite likely to come back and bite you in the ass.
Remember your first broken heart? What should a parent’s role be?
Read more by Tracey Hawthorne
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