When heartbreak happens to your daughter
Teen love is a great source of comedy for adults and media. We love to laugh and roll our eyes at the irrational drama and behavior surrounding teen romance. As parents the humor may also be tinged with disgust or impatience as we watch our teenage children break rules, mope, sob uncontrollably, or declare undying love for a fellow teenager who may or may not be around next week. It’s just ridiculous! How can they be so dramatic and short-sighted?!
It’s all part of the teen experience. If you can’t remember a cringe-worthy embarrassment of teen romance in your own past, count yourself lucky. Teens experience powerful emotions and mood swings, as well as constant discovery of oneself and other people around them. They also lack the maturity and intelligence, literally the brain development to see the big picture. Hence, teen love can be all-consuming, and a breakup can be absolutely devastating. That’s why it’s critical for parents to learn how to be there for their sensitive teens when their dream boy breaks their heart.
The first step is the most difficult – putting yourself back in awkward, emotional, dramatic, insecure teen shoes. Try to remember your first “love” or relationship. Sure, you might be able to look back now and laugh or see that it was such a good thing for you, but did you feel like that when it ended? Yeah, we thought so. Suspend your judgement and impatience as best you can. Make a commitment to avoid phrases like “it’s no big deal!” or “it wasn’t going to last forever!” because to them it probably was!
When you’re in the right frame of mind and ready to communicate without judgement or “I-told-you-so-s,” then you’re ready to listen. Simply listening is the best way to deal with your teen’s breakup. Again, this can be painful, especially if Mr. Dream Boy was not someone of whom you approved in the first place. Just try to remember how much your daughter is hurting and how she might be feeling, then politely listen whenever she is ready to talk. She may need to talk through the feelings of rejection, worthlessness, or confusion that are incredibly challenging for anyone, particularly underdeveloped teen brains. When the time is right you can also use the opportunity to teach life lessons about relationships, self-worth, coping, body image, and the complexities of romance.
Finally, it’s critical to provide unconditional love and support throughout the process of a breakup. Remember that your teen daughter is now feeling unlovable and wondering what is wrong with her. It’s your job as her father to show her that she is in fact VERY loved, and nothing is wrong with her. Your daughter needs her father. Take her on a daddy-daughter date, tell her what you love and admire about her, or do something special to show her that you will always love her, no matter what happens. The ongoing and permanent support of her father is a lifeline that will help her work through a breakup faster and without as much emotional damage.