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How to deal with teenage heartbreak

“They say for every boy and girl there’s just one love in this old world” — so crooned Donny Osmond, once the teen spokesperson for broken adolescent hearts the world over. When you are young, love is overwhelming, fresh and new. So how will you help your vulnerable teenager cope when it is all over?

Teen couple on beach in intimate embrace

Intense, romantic love

In the Journal of Adolescent Health in 2007,  Dr. Serge Brand, Ph.D. of the Psychiatric University Clinics of Basel, Switzerland presented his paper “Romantic Love, Hypomania, and Sleep Patterns in Adolescents.” This put the case that teenagers in love exhibit “hypomania” — sleeplessness, emotional anxiety, exhaustion and an increased state of excitement. In his experimental group of 113 adolescents aged around 17 years old, 65 of them said they had recently fallen in love. This smaller group required an hour’s less sleep than the other teenagers and their hormone levels were heightened and unstable. When questioned, they stated they were driving faster and taking more risks than usual. Dr. Brand concluded they were demonstrating a “psychopathologically prominent stage” — that of intense, romantic love.

Young love, first love

When your teenage child is so hyper and emotionally charged, it can be very difficult to deal with their mood swings and with the intensity of their feelings. Often they will be frustrated and they may seem unreasonable. It is important that you realise their reasoning faculties may have been ditched as soon as they fell in love. They are in strange new territory and the chemical imbalance of their brains, supercharged with the “love” hormone of serotonin, means their behaviour can be hard to control. They will need the support of their parents to help them through this overpowering time, and even if they seem to leave you far behind in their heady first rush of love, it is important that you are there for them. They are very young, and chances are, this strong new love will not last.

Young love and heartbreak

So when it’s all over, who will pick up the pieces? If your teenage child has confided in you from the start of their relationship, it will be easier to empathise and to understand the extent of their heartbreak. They are experiencing grief, loss and a feeling of rejection. Their confidence has taken a beating. Listen and be kind. If they know they have your ear, without you showing any knee-jerk reactions, they will be much more likely to confide in you. Having initiated discussion, do not criticise or pass judgement on their actions or those of their ex. Try to get them to open up to you. What they need right now is unconditional love — and they will be only too painfully aware that they did not get it from their recent ex.

Young love, old story

Most importantly of all, never make fun of their emotions, tell them not to overreact, or say “I told you so.” You may have believed their former boyfriend or girlfriend was an unwelcome addition to their life — or to yours. You may feel confused at the speed with which they suddenly became a young adult, with a young adult’s emotions. You may even feel they are simply too young to feel any sense of “love” or to have sexual desires. It can be hard to remember our first love — if you do, chances are you’ll know it was a painful process and that the feeling of “forever” was hard to lose. Make them feel worthwhile — tell them you love them and why. After all they’re just brilliant, right? Make sure they know it. Above all, give it time. If they need to be alone, let them grieve — but suggest things you can all do as a family for when they come round. Then make some treats. Do they like cake? Well let them eat cake.

Teenagers in love

Has your teenager gone through a first time breakup? Tell us about it in the comment section below.

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