How to Console a Heartbroken Teen
When you are a teen who is going through a multitude of new life experiences, both in school and the group of friends, things such as crushes and other interests towards people will always come and go. A new crush might pop up today and last for a year or more, making butterflies fly in your teen’s stomach and having them sighing dreamily or getting all flustered at even the slightest mention of the other person’s name, while another crush could just last a few days, having been either just naturally short-lived. There’s no exact science when it comes to crushes and how they will play out, or knowing whether your teen will eventually slam their fist down and say “I will ask them out!” or if they will just sulk in silence, adoring the other person from afar, so the only thing that is to be done is wait them out. However, if a relationship or a date ever happens, there’s always the possibility of encountering a heartbreak if things don’t go as imagined.
How should a parent react to seeing their teen come home all upset, though? There are cases where the teen might show their disappointment or pain (because we’ve all been there already, we know it actually hurt at that point, getting over that only comes later) but there are also plenty who just don’t voice it, nor do anything to show what they are going through. An observant parent might notice that things are off even if their child is not the one to share so much, but that just gets us all to the part where many parents encounter trouble: how to console a heartbroken teen?
The first step is really just recognizing their struggle. Let’s just imagine a scenario: the girl or boy comes home from school, you two greet each other as usual, then they go to leave their school things and backpack in their designated spot. You would think, so far, so good, right? No teen comes barging through the house to complain first thing as they arrive, especially not about such sensitive matters like love problems and much less if their parents are not supposed to know about their affairs in the first place.
Then, maybe you all sit down to eat and notice that they’re oddly silent, or that could be the moment where they share their problem with you if you two share such a close relationship. However, the certain thing is that that’s the moment where your strategy for consoling them should begin. From the moment you find out about their heartbreak, you have to offer emotional support and try to avoid underestimating their feelings and emotions as much as you can, since you don’t want them to close up about their problems and think that you don’t understand what they’re going through.
You do, in fact, understand, remember that you have been their age as well, no matter how far away that period of your life might feel like or regardless of the number of age jokes you like to make, you can still empathize and it’s beneficial for both of you that you try to be mindful now more than ever.
So if recognizing that something is troubling them is the first step, then step two is all about listening to them. It’s their time to express what they feel, to put their trust in you that you will be there for them, not there to scold, mock or freak out. Be patient while they explain everything and think ahead on what you could do to comfort them that doesn’t involve interrupting them at that moment. What you can do after they have poured their heart out in front of you is to acknowledge that their feelings are real and important to them, regardless of what your life experience tells you. It’s common knowledge that teenager relationships rarely end up in marriages and that at least a break-up is inevitable to be avoided, but telling them that it’s not the end of the world will not help much. In fact, it might just make them think that sharing their hardships with you is a waste of time – which, as harsh as it sounds, is how a teen perceives the lack of support and understanding in such sensitive periods of their life.
That marks the third step – offering reassurance and comfort. Try to calm them with some positive thinking, either by telling them how heartaches are a natural thing and that all the disappointment just leads to them eventually finding “the right person”, to help them let go easier. Reinforce their self-confidence and self-esteem by letting them know that they won’t be hurting over this forever, that everything just gets better, crush by a crush. It’s not inaccurate either since they just don’t yet have that experience adults have when it comes to dealing with rejection or heartache, and it’s something that can be learned as they go through more, various situations and scenarios in life.
Depending on your teen’s personality and your relationship with them, another beneficial thing to do to help cheer them up is to find ways to laugh about whoever disappointed them, as it more often than not might make them feel better. Everyone likes to be told how they’re better than someone who wronged them in a way, but blurting it out without first trying to pull them out of the disheartened state will just sound superficial.
A fourth step is to show that you’re on their team, regardless of how much you might have liked the person they were in a relationship with if that’s the case. If they just didn’t feel right with that person, then it’s better than the break-up happened rather than to have them become miserable in the relationship. You can’t force someone to be with somebody else just because you might think they’re a good influence on them or that they look cute together, so whatever their decision was, you have to show that you support it and view the points they raise on their side.
Step five, after you two had that heart-to-heart talk and gave each other all the necessary hugs and comforting pats, is to find something your teen could shift their focus on for a while after the heartbreak. It will help them forget the heartache faster, or at least easier if they don’t have to think about the past with every occasion that arises. Depending on what your teen likes to do, you can take them to a movie, a sports game, maybe a little trip to somewhere nice. Anything should work as long as you’re not dismissing them to go back to their homework or disregard their whole need for your help with coping with the new experience.
All of that being said, their heartache can serve as a life lesson and self-development material only if you help it become that, by being there as a positive presence and a shoulder to cry on when needed. Your teen will learn how to manage such misfortunes and rejection or disappointment at their own pace and you cannot force them to acquire life experience faster. Just keep in mind that it’s a sensitive moment for them and that they need the understanding and comfort of their guardian, rather than the scolding of a confused or angry parent.