As our students are returning back from the holiday vacation we cannot help but notice the smiles on the boys that have either created relationships or been allowed to visit girlfriends over their home visits. They are so love struck. So many emotions that are being experienced. It is almost more than a high school boy can handle!
They are learning and experiencing firsthand both the joy and agony of their long distance relationships. We all dread their first romantic heartache and though we cannot protect them from the anguish that we have all experienced as teenagers with our own relationships, we can play a big role in helping them through the experience in a healthy way.
The teenager may not realize it at the time but by surviving their first broken heart they will see that they have resilience to weather the storm of so many of life's challenges. It is an important stage in their lives and a great opportunity for growth. They will be able to understand that although the pain is intense at first, over time it will get better and they can take pride in the recognition of their strength and ability to endure some of life's challenges of the heart.
Girls and boys experience different reactions while going through a breakup but please don't gender stereotype their expected emotions. They all cope differently and may appear angry and irritable. Some boys may cry, the teenager may or may not want to discuss their feelings and could even mask their pain to family and friends. They may also just want to be left alone. All these are normal reactions.
Don't minimize the experience. The pain is real and hard for youth who may never have experienced hurt like this before. Validate his or her feelings and be empathic in this difficult time in their life. However helpless we feel, we cannot 'fix' the problem. You can open the door for conversation by sharing your own experiences but try not to be lecturing. We need to allow them time to grieve but with an understanding heart.
Feeling heartbroken after a break up is normal, but if you sense anything out of the ordinary like prolonged signs of grief or depression you may want to call in a professional. These clues might include your son or daughter not participating in their normal activities or being down for a long period of time. A healing heart does take a while but it is good to be watchful for signs that they are not able to handle this without help.
We all probably remember our first broken heart from a relationship. We can be thankful for the first test of our strength that proved to us that no storm is too strong to get through, of course, that does not mean the storm's whirling sand doesn't still sting.