"Breaking up is hard to do," sang Neil Sedaka back in 1962, and he was absolutely right. Breakups are never easy, no matter what age you are, but for teenagers they can be particularly devastating. Teen couplings may be as fleeting as they are intense. One moment, a teen is enjoying the first flush of romance -- the next, she is sobbing over her lost love. It may have been a while since you experienced your first teenage breakup. By reminding yourself of the potential effects, you can be a strong support for your teen.
The emotional effects of a breakup can hit a teen hard, depending on the length of the relationship, the intensity of the teen's feelings for his ex, and who instigated the split. A jilted teen may become angry, aggressive, withdrawn or depressed. Teenage boys may be more likely to react with anger and frustration than their female counterparts, says psychologist Carl Pickhardt in the article, "Adolescent Breakups," for "Psychology Today." A teenage girl tends to turn her emotions inwards, and suffer from feelings of worthlessness triggered by the rejection from her mate.
In the immediate aftermath of a breakup, a teenager may experience various physical reactions. A University of Amsterdam study on rejection, published in the journal "Psychological Sciences," in September 2010, found that following a breakup, the heart rate slows down. This explains how rejection can literally make you feel as if your heart is breaking, says psychologist Adoree Durayappah in the article, "5 Scientific Reasons Why Breakups Are Devastating," on the "Huffington Post."
At around the age of 13 to 15, teens tend to equate romantic relationships with social acceptance. In their eyes, coupling up with a peer demonstrates a greater level of maturity. Teenage gossip often revolves around who likes who, and who the latest couple are. When a teen goes through a breakup, she may feel socially excluded, says Pickhardt. It may affect teenage girls more than boys, reveals Pickhardt, because girls typically experience puberty earlier than boys and take breaking up more seriously. An older teens may also experience social exclusion following a breakup, if she feels it is necessary to avoid certain events their ex may attend.
How to Help
As the parent of a teenager, the best thing you can do to help her get through a breakup is to listen. This may not always be easy, particularly if you have concerns for her well-being. Your natural instinct may be to tell your teen what to do, which may come across as lecturing, criticizing or judging. If you can put your own biases aside when your teen come to you for advice, you have a better chance of becoming a confidante, says the article, "Teaching Teens to Breakup Better," for Hartstein Psychological Services.
- Hartstein Psychological Services: Teaching Teens to Breakup Better
- Psychology Today: Adolescent Breakups
- Huffington Post: 5 Scientific Reasons Why Breakups Are Devastating
- NCBI:The Heartbreak of Social Rejection: Heart Rate Deceleration in Response to Unexpected Peer Rejection"; Psychological Science; September 2010