Yesterday I caught myself listening to Olivia Rodrigo’s new album “Sour” on repeat. I’m not ashamed to admit that I love a good teen bop. As I was listening, I started to really listen to the lyrics, and it made me want to hug Olivia and ask, “who hurt you?” The pain and hurt in the lyrics are so raw. She expresses every emotion from anger, pain, sadness, loneliness, and more. Olivia is 18 years old. She sings, “I’ve lost my mind, I’ve spent the night, cryin’ on the floor of my bathroom.” At 18 years old, she is able to express the pain of heartbreak through her gift of songwriting. At 18, I could barely hold a conversation with a guy, let alone write a song about it.
This is the reality of the world. Teenagers are experiencing things way earlier than previous generations. Most teenagers will experience some romantic heartbreak in High School. So how do we help them? Below are practicals to keep in mind when helping a teenager deal with heartbreak.
Validate their emotions
With age comes wisdom. So, most of us may know that heartbreak and pain from a relationship are temporary. But we all probably remember as a teenager just how permanent the pain felt in that moment. We need to make sure that we validate their pain and suffering. For them, in the present moment, it’s real, significant, and it hurts. Try not to minimize their reality and emotions. Say things like, “I know this is difficult” or “breakups can be painful.” Try avoiding statements like, “most high school relationships don’t last” or “you’ll get over it.”
Culture often tells us that girls are emotional. Therefore, for a girl experiencing heartbreak, they will most likely show more emotion than a male would. But that’s not always the case. Forget the stereotypes that culture feeds us. Instead, be open to the countless ways that teenagers express their hurt and pain. It may involve tears, anger, or isolation, but no matter how they choose to express their heartbreak, remember that this is how they are choosing to express themselves.
Teens are always seeking a safe place to vent and share. Be their listening ear that is available to hear them. They may not need advice; instead, hear them out. They may not be open to sharing everything with you, and that’s ok. Make sure to encourage them to share with another trusted adult or friend.
Support their decision
If your teen was the one to initiate the breakup, support them in their decision. Even if they broke up with the sweetest teen ever, they need your support whether you agree or disagree with their decision. Do not attempt to talk them out of it or focus on their decision. Instead, attempt to talk about their emotions, feelings, and support them in their present state.
Let the roller coaster ride
Once the initial emotions pass in the first few days, they may have a few good days and think they are healing. But healing is not linear. Some days will be better than others. Riding the emotional roller coaster is healthy and normal. Celebrate the good days, but be with them in the bad ones as well.
Seek help with necessary
The pain of heartbreak may linger on longer than we may be qualified for. Know your limits, and don’t hesitate to encourage them to seek professional help. (Read more on helping teens with mental health, and helping parents find a therapist). If you notice signs of depression, eating problems, or sleeping too much or too little, it might be time to seek additional help.
The only thing worse than your own personal heartbreak is watching someone suffer and feeling like you cannot help them. Know that even though at times, it may not seem like you’re helping, you are. Offer up the suffering to the one who knows pain and knows heartbreak. God is the one whom we can find reassurance and comfort in.