Picking up the pieces of a broken heart

By admin
16 March 2014

No parent wants to see their child in pain – physical or emotional. But when that pain stems from a broken heart, it’s often difficult to navigate your way around a sensitive teenager. Here are some tips for breaking the ice and strengthening the bond.

Do you remember your first heartbreak and how painful it was? Imagine your child going through the same emotions. No parent wants to see their child heartbroken. So how can you be supportive to your teen daughter or son when they come home crying after a failed relationship?

Educational psychologist Cara Blackie says parents often don’t realise that first heartbreaks or relationships involve a large emotional component. “Normally these relationships occur during early teenage years when teens don’t always want to talk to their parents about their feelings,” she explains. “They may be very secretive about the relationship to their parents. So talking to your teen about their emotions may be difficult already.”

So how can you break down that communication barrier between you and your child? Blackie weighs in on some top tips:

Hug it out

The saying goes that “a hug is a handshake from the heart” or “a hug is like a bandage to a hurting wound”. So reach out by giving your child a hug. A warm hug says a lot and it will help in wading through your child’s sea of emotions.

Speak from the heart

Writer Michael Ross says, “Share your heart, not your mind.” Just speak from the heart when you are communicating with your child. You can share a story about your first heartbreak and how you got through it. Don’t come up with some intellectual answers. Your child probably wants to speak to you as a parent, not a therapist.

Listen!

Don’t tell your child “I told you so,” even if you knew the relationship was doomed. This is the last thing your teenage child, or anyone for that matter, wants to hear. Just lend an ear and offer a shoulder to cry on.

Try to understand the pain

Don’t dismiss the break-up or your child’s broken heart as something small. Yes, they’re probably too young to think they’ve met the one, but they’re hurting and they need you to understand their pain. The most important thing for parents to realise is that even though to them it seems silly and unimportant, to their child that relationship meant much more. Don’t disregard their feelings and brush it off.

Give ’em a boost

Boost your child’s self-esteem. Remind them of how amazing they are and that they’ll be able to love again. Tell them about their strengths.

Get busy

Encourage your child to take part in school activities or to take up a hobby. This will help them keep busy so they won’t focus all their attention on the break-up. They can take part in sport or even drama classes after school.

Keep a close eye on depression

Be observant. If your child becomes too emotionally distraught, watch out for signs of depression and even suicidal behaviour. This doesn’t mean all teens become suicidal, but if your teen does suffer from depression, the break-up may be a trigger for these kinds of thoughts.

Boys and girls

Be aware that girls and boys handle heartbreak differently. Approach the situation with sensitivity. “Boys tend to hold in their emotions (especially hurt) much more than girls and so it may be harder to identify a boy’s emotional reaction to a break-up. Boys are as sensitive as girls and so their feelings should be given as much credit as a girl’s emotions,” Blackie says. Girls on the other hand often tend to open up to their girlfriends about their feelings. They’ll take part in activities that will draw them closer to their friends. Boys often get angry and close up. Talk to your son about his break-up privately so he won’t feel embarrassed. Advise him on how to redirect his anger so that he doesn’t take out his frustration on his siblings or others.

-Katlego Mkhwanazi 

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