Witnessing your child cry and get hurt by anyone or anything is uncomfortable for any loving parent, especially as it relates to love relationships. Love relationships can be considered equally as a classroom of life. They are how we come to feel a greater sense of belonging, acceptance, and trust. As a parent, it can be hard to overcome personal feelings of wanting to protect them and shelter them from pain and people who are hurting them. However, the best way to talk to your child when they get their heart broken from a love interest is to ask tough defining questions and mentor where they need.
Relationships are complex. When two people commit to each other exclusively, together they create an interpersonal dynamic that begins a chain of memorable experiences both ecstatic and dramatic. Not only do our children have intense feelings for one another, they also are in the process of loving and accepting themselves. The complexities are vast and always evolving. In love relationships, they experiment with how to express their thoughts and emotions in an appropriate way, sometimes leading to inappropriate or uncomfortable situations that directly oppose the value systems in their homes. Ways they express themselves can come through the awkward sexual tension or peer pressure and desire for social acceptance. They desire friendship, love, and intimacy that exists on their level.
With all of these awkwardly beautiful moments we witness our teens go through, when they cry or are hurt we want to see them satisfied in life, happy, confident again, and moving forward with lessons learned and wiser than before. As parents, we want them to come into their own. Stand tall and proud on their own. The personal challenge is letting go of what we know to be good, true, and right while allowing them to explore those answers on their own. Courage, fellow parent. If that is best, what on earth can we bring to the conversation when we feel or think our value is irrelevant?
Your acceptance of your son or daughter is relevant. Remember that you are bringing the acceptance they crave when things change for them. Naturally, children between the ages 10-16 are changing so frequently and in massive ways. Acceptance is the biggest way to position yourself for a successful talk. Think of it from their perspective. Will their lips spill the details if they suspect that they won’t be accepted even in the slightest detail? Once you position yourself as accepting then the environment is safe to talk and share. Get the details in a genuine way, but never push or pry for answers.
When they break up with a partner, they may be experiencing conflicting value systems and need clarity on why they chose to ditch a perfectly good mate. When someone breaks up with them, the course is always more challenging. What happened? Ask them was their anything that made you feel ashamed? Rejected? Less than? And seek to apply and instill love, acceptance, and trust in your relationship.
Providing a loving space that supports freedom to feel any way they want to without having to perform is liberating. A child knows the parent wants them to be happy. Also, a child naturally wants to see their parents happy. Keep in mind, your child may feel a desire or need to make you happy before considering their own happiness. When you offer them an opportunity to not be concerned about you and your happiness, they can focus on their emotional expression, their grieving, and are able to move forward.
Emotional venting and expression is experimental at this age, not meant to be attached as a “personality or mood disorder,” instead it is meant to be a useful tool to explore values that come up and whether or not they are acting in alignment with their deeper selves even as it is forming. Freedom to experiment with different values through emotion is big territory for your child.
Building a space of trust and confidence comes when you think critically and unattached. Ask open-ended questions and use this opportunity to come into their movement of change. Everything in their world is in-flux. Can you ride these waves of life with them, and be with them to explore the fresh ideas, new values, friendships, and love interests? The deepest part of them is begging to know the answer to the question, “Is love always there?” regardless of their status change on Facebook and you have the opportunity to show them, “Yes, it is.