Teen’s Broken Heart
Teen’s Broken Heart
Dear Tacit,

My teen just had his heart broken – how can I help him get through this?

Signed: Teen’s Broken Heart

Dear Teen’s Broken Heart,

Helping a teenager cope with a broken heart can be challenging, but your support and understanding can make a significant difference in their healing process. Teens are in the stage of life where they often prefer to try to work through emotional struggles on their own (or sometimes with the support of friends, even if this is not always very helpful).  That’s normal – it’s all a part of how they are learning to be more independent, autonomous beings.

As with all things that we initially try, it would be rare for a teen to be able to find the best balance between this individualism and their innate need for support from/connection to others, especially with their early experiences of a broken heart. So, they need their parents help to understand how to open up and talk about their feelings enough that they can process through them (rather than getting stuck in them), while at the same time feeling capable of managing the struggles on their own so they build trust and confidence in their own resiliency.

Here are some ways you can provide assistance:

  1. Be a good listener: Give your teen the space to talk about his feelings and emotions without judgment. Let him know that it’s okay to openly express his pain, sadness, anger, etc – even if it doesn’t seem to make sense or if he has conflicting feelings. Just listen while he does this – this is not the moment to offer opinions, advice or other perspectives. (Too often we try to quickly jump to talking about the “logic” of why something has happened – and this shuts down the emotional processing.)
  2. Offer empathy and validation: Let your teen know that his feelings are valid and understandable. Avoid dismissing or trivializing his emotions (telling him it will pass or there will be new loves), as this may make him feel even worse.
  3. Encourage healthy coping mechanisms: Help your son find constructive ways to release his feelings (make sure he knows it’s okay to cry, yell, or vent with appropriate aggression) and to cope with his emotions (engage in hobbies, spend time with friends, exercise, or pursue creative outlets) so he doesn’t feel like the negativity is controlling him all the time.  Create a distraction for your son by taking him out to do something fun to temporarily take his mind off of his heartbreak.
  4. Avoid imposing solutions: While you can offer suggestions, avoid pressuring your teen into “moving on” or “getting over it.” Healing takes time, and he needs to process his emotions at his own pace.
  5. Encourage social support: Help your son maintain connections with friends and loved ones who can offer comfort and understanding during this difficult time.  While some isolation is to be expected, healthy connection is also a necessity.
  6. Educate about healthy relationships: After the initial emotional releases, take this opportunity to discuss healthy relationship dynamics, communication, and self-worth with your son. This can be an opportunity for him to learn and grow from the experience.  Talk to your teen about how you cope with difficult emotions and share healthy ways to handle stress and sadness (ideally ways you used yourself in the past).
  7. Monitor for signs of prolonged distress: While heartbreak is a natural part of life, prolonged sadness or other concerning behaviors may indicate a need for professional help. If you notice any signs of depression or self-destructive behavior, consider seeking support from a therapist.  If your son is not open to this idea, you can speak to the counsellor yourself, to get ideas about how to address the deeper developing issues with him in a healthy way.

Be patient and supportive. Healing from a broken heart is a process that may take time. Offer your ongoing support and remind your son that you are there for him whenever he needs to talk or share his feelings. Every individual copes with heartbreak differently, so adapt your approach based on your teen’s personality and needs.

Take care!

Have a question? Please feel free to reach out to us at counsellors@tacitknows.com. Your answer will be provided confidentially. 

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