Author: Stéphanie Deslauriers, psychoeducator
In their teen years, your child is searching for identity, love and intense feelings. With the first romantic experiences come great expectations—and sometimes great disappointments!
How can you help them manage their heartbreak? Read on and discover our advice!
Expectations in first romantic relationships
Like all young people for generations, your teen is exposed to romantic love stories in films and children’s books. It’s not surprising, then, that they tend to idealize romantic relationships and want to experience the butterflies and the whole range of intense emotions that come with young romance.
Unfortunately, young people also experience heartbreak: maybe the person they had a crush on doesn’t reciprocate their feelings, or maybe they break up after being in a relationship for a while.
A first heartbreak is intense and painful. A young person may easily feel misunderstood, alone in the world and that their life is out of control. In adolescent cognitive development, these feelings are altogether normal.
As a parent, it’s quite normal that you would want to comfort your child. To do so, you may tend to say things such as :
“Wait a bit. You’ll meet someone else”
“Believe me, you’ll fall in love again”
“It was just a teenage fling. It’s normal that it didn’t last.”
Although they may be well-intentioned, these comments can tend to invalidate your child’s feelings. If you want them to feel understood and listened to, opt for comments such as :
“I know that you’re going through a hard time. Do you want to talk about it?”
“It’s true that breaking up is difficult. I’m here if you need me.”
And often, just being there can do a lot of good! Without having to verbalize your thoughts, just giving your teen the right to express themselves and cry can appease the situation. The best way to let go of an emotion, whatever it may be, is to accept it without judging.
When relationships become toxic
It is completely normal to not agree with other people 100% of the time; this is true with couples, friends, family members, coworkers, etc. Some conflicts are healthy in that they allow everyone to have their say, assert themselves and find a solution—together. But sometimes these conflicts become frequent. They may not only occur more often, but they also become more intense and there’s a lack of respect, whether through hurtful, derogatory comments (verbal abuse) or a negative attitude (invalidating the partner’s emotions, making sarcastic remarks, deliberately making the other person doubt their perceptions and emotions, for example).
Psychological abuse can insidiously take hold.
According to the Éducaloi website, domestic violence “occurs between people who are or who have been in an intimate relationship. […] Domestic violence can occur at any age and often involves an imbalance of power in the relationship. The abuser will typically use different strategies to control the victim, including insults, threats, or intimidation.”
Want to raise your child’s awareness about domestic violence?
You can have them try this interactive game that will allow them to engage in hypothetical virtual discussions.
You think your child is in a domestic violence relationship?
You can ask them to take this self-test.
A few examples of violence inflicted or experienced
- Being maliciously criticized for your physical appearance, being insulted in front of people and belittled.
- Having your comings and goings, electronic conversations or cell phone monitored, or being prevented from seeing friends.
- Being forced to kiss or caress your partner against your will.
- Having something thrown at you that could have injured you.
- Being grabbed, pushed or shoved.
- Being slapped.
- Being punched, kicked or injured by an object or weapon.
- Being sexually coerced against your will.
Source: Statistique Québec
If you believe that your child is in a domestic violence relationship, be ready to lend an ear. Avoid lecturing them; they may then feel controlled, just like in their intimate relationship.
Try to gently raise their awareness about the toxic nature of what they are experiencing by mentioning your observations concerning their behaviour :
“I notice that you haven’t been as cheerful lately”
“You often mention that you’re having a tough time with your boyfriend/girlfriend; how do you feel in the situation?”
You can also mention how you feel :
“I’m concerned about you”.
Leave the door open so that your child can open up to you at their pace, without rushing things.
Of course, if their safety is in jeopardy, you should step in and report the situation to the police.