One of the most exciting aspects about going to high school for an adolescent is also one of the most difficult: the possibility of romantic relationships. Teens may idealize a boyfriend or girlfriend as an attractive person with whom they can date, and develop an intimate relationship. Of course, however, it isn’t always as simple as this.
Romantic relationships are very important for teens, for many reasons. First of all, society tells teenagers (and adults for that matter) that being in a relationship is better than being single. It is also true that the teen years are inherently a time when individuals feel less confident in themselves, so having someone caring for them can make them feel more confident. In addition, some teens may have strained relationships with their parents and feel that a boyfriend or girlfriend will fill a void for them. Add this to the fact that teens are dealing with raging hormones, and the desire to be involved in a relationship becomes very strong.
Unfortunately, some teens focus so much on being in a relationship, that it becomes a “no matter what” situation. This can be problematic because in their desperation, they may choose a boyfriend or girlfriend that may not be in their best interest, or they may fail to take into account that being in a relationship takes hard work and some sacrifice.
While teenage romantic relationships are difficult, they are a necessary part of growing up in our society, as is the process of ending a relationship as a teen. Parents are often concerned with their teen’s reaction to a relationship ending.
Some parents may have a very difficult time witnessing their child in pain. They may feel helpless and want to ease the hurt. Other parents may downplay the pain that their child is in, not fully understanding that the loss of a relationship for a teenager who is not developed emotionally is tantamount to any loss at any age.
For teens, a relationship ending can feel like a failure. They may develop the irrational belief that they will never be in another relationship, that this was the person they were supposed to marry, or that they are “unlovable.” They may go to extreme ends to hold on to the relationship, some feeling so helpless that they are willing to sacrifice their values, while others may resort to making threats to discourage the break-up. All this is in effort to regain something that they fear, if lost, will never be experienced again.
The loss of a relationship during adolescence is particularly difficult because of the high probability that these teens will see each other often, whether they attend the same school or have the same friends. Seeing the other person regularly makes the difficult process of moving on even more difficult. Often teens become so distracted that their focus on academics may shift and they may begin to struggle with grades.
Although this can be a difficult time, there are important lessons to be learned in the process of experiencing the break up of relationships. These lessons include the newfound belief that they can be self-reliant, they can be assertive, they can survive difficult feelings, and they can survive the loss of one relationship without the fear that they will never find love again.
You as a parent can play a key role in helping your child deal effectively with the loss of a relationship. By being empathic, understanding and available to teens, you can help to ease the emotional distress. You should also try to support teens and encourage them to continue to pursue new experiences. Teens often think they are alone in their feelings. In order to help your child feel less alone and recover more quickly from a breakup, you can normalize these intense feelings by listening to them. People should avoid using terms like “good” or “bad” to define their teen’s feelings. After all, feelings are real, and teens need to be allowed to feel them without judgment.
Although the end of a relationship is difficult, the pain will ease with time, and communicating about it can provide teenagers with a valuable learning experience for future relationships. If you are concerned that your teen is having a difficult time recovering from the loss of a relationship, please call.