So what do parents do to support their teens during this stressful time?
Parents worry because they do not want to see their children suffer. They want them to know that what they learn now will be helpful in the future. But what a parent says to his children has to be carefully considered.
Some teens ignore their parents entirely; thinking that times have changed and that parents just do not understand. They may even go so far as to do the opposite of what their parent wants, especially if he says something negative about the boy or girl. And, if a parent tries to tell his teenager to break up, hopefully the parent has plenty of time to follow him, because more than likely, he will find a way to exert his will.
Unless a teen is in danger, it is very important that he learns how to process his own emotions so that he will develop the skills to better handle life as an adult.
Also, parents need to be on guard for teens who experience depression that leads to marked changes in behavior, such as loss of sleep, isolation from peers, or poor grades. Seek help from a counselor or other health care professional if necessary.
Reassure your teenager that although these feelings of suffering are intense, they are a part of life and loss and will not last forever. Saying something like “this sounds like it feels so painful to you, for now,” will help him understand that it is “for now” that the pain is so difficult.
Do not demean him or his experience by invalidating his feelings because of his age. Instead, acknowledge his pain by practicing empathetic listening, which in turn increases self-esteem. Self-esteem plays an important role in how your teenager reacts to a break-up or difficulty in a relationship. When teens feel accepted and loved by their parents, they will discover their own strength and their power and will achieve a greater ability to navigate treacherous waters of any kind in life.
Teens who live with authoritarian parents have a hard time discovering their own power. They do not know what it feels like to be in control and struggle to make the transition to independence and autonomous thinking. Finding one’s power and respect for self and others in a relationship is fundamental. Children who live with parents who are overly lenient also have difficulties in identifying what they need in order to establish appropriate boundaries.
It can also be helpful to talk about how much your teen has learned since he was a small child. Each relationship that he has is another opportunity for growth. He will learn how to refine what he wants in a partner and the warning signs that will give him information about leaving, staying, or getting involved in a relationship.
Whatever life brings, its beauty often is balanced with pain. Being in love is a perfect example. A famous writer and professor said once to one of his students who told him that he was in love, “oh, you poor dear, give me your hand and I will be with you.” Often, it is the best that we can do.