Sue Scheff: Teen Love and Teen Breakups

This is an article many parents can not only relate to but most likely lived through years ago.  Generations of teens may change, but broken hearts are always extremely painful and can cause emotional stress and grief within your adolescent.  In many situations, a broken leg is less painful than a broken heart.

Source: MoreForKids.info (TM)

sad-teenagerParenting Teens: Breakups and Broken Heart

By Stephanie Partridge

The moment I heard my daughter’s voice on the other side of my bedroom door, I knew something was wrong. She knocked, waking me. I looked at the clock: 12 am. “Mom,” She said, “I need to talk to you.” Her voice was strained, tight. I could tell that she was struggling to keep it together. Something was wrong. I was out of bed in a heartbeat.

“What’s up?” I asked as I opened the door. Her face did not reveal much, but I could see she was upset. Her trembling hand matched her trembling voice as she thrust a cell phone at me.

“Look.” She said.

It took me a moment to process what I was seeing, a text from someone to someone asking for nude photos and promising nude photos in return. My first reaction was that she had encountered some pervert somewhere and he was soliciting her. My mind began forming a plan of action. I wanted to throttle the creep, then it hit me. I KNEW this number, the sender of the text message. I also realized that this was not her phone, but her friend’s cell. The picture slowly came into focus. My daughter’s boyfriend had sent this text to her friend! I felt the small hairs on the back of my neck bristle as the realization hit me. The boy was a player and my daughter was heartbroken.

What had started out as a joke, two teenage girls sending a random message to my daughter’s boyfriend had turned into major drama. A joke had turned into a tragedy. He had responded in a way that neither girl expected. At that midnight hour, the boyfriend had realized his blunder and come over to our house, only to be confronted by my son (also my daughter’s best friend and strongest ally) who was not too happy that his sister was hurt by this guy.

Major drama in our house that night.

In all, it came out that he was “talking” to lots of girls and that he had been cheating on my daughter from the beginning. As we all stood in my kitchen that Thursday night (the next day was a holiday for the kids, not for me) my daughter showed incredible strength and wisdom as she calmly confronted the boy and told him she wanted nothing to do with him ever again. However, although she was the one to break it off, she had still been betrayed. I wanted so badly to take those hurt feelings away from her, to protect her. But life just doesn’t work that way.

Broken hearts are a part of growing up and the teen years tend to be particularly prone to them. As parents, we watch our children struggle with the pain of growing up, the heartache of breakups and betrayals, and we wish that we could offer our children a magical pill that would rid them of heartbreak forever. But there is no such pill and even if there was, we can’t realistically shield our children from the hurts of the world. There is growth in pain and much like the steel of the sword becoming forged in the fire, we become stronger, smarter and wiser when we are faced with difficult times. To shield our children from this valuable and necessary process would be a disservice to them.

So, if we can’t or shouldn’t protect and shield our children from heartache, what can we do? Well, this is actually a time when your child needs not only a parent, but a friend as well. You can help to soothe the hurt, but also guide them through the growth process, help them learn the lessons that lie within. This is a delicate process, but not only will it help your child recover quicker, it will also draw them closer to you, improving your relationship with them.
Remember how it feels.
Think about when you were a teen and had your heart broken. At the time you felt as if your world was ending. Remember that time, the feelings that you had, the emptiness, frustration and hopelessness. Recall the physical reactions as well as your emotional ones. This will put you in the right place to relate to your child. Empathy is a powerful tool when you are reaching out to help your child.

Recognize that teens deal with pain in different ways.
Your teen may not deal with the pain in the same way that you deal with pain, or even the same way that their siblings deal with it. They may isolate themselves and cry, or they may act as if nothing is wrong and try to ignore it. It is not your place to dictate to them the “right” way to handle grief and pain. You can not try to mold them into the image you feel comfortable handling, you must meet them on their terms. By doing so, you are sending them the message that you seem them as an individual, you respect them and you accept them for who they are.

NEVER say “I Told you So.”
As a parent, you may be inclined to rant about the perpetrator of the pain, the heartbreaker. You may feel like saying, “I TOLD you that he was not good!” or “I warned you that she was going to do this!” These types of statements are not at all productive and will only serve to make your teen feel more like a failure while driving them further away from you.

Acknowledge that you may not be the hero this time.
As a parent, you instinctively want to take away the pain, to be the hero. However, you can’t always be the hero in your teen’s life. It is important that at this time you are there for you teen, but don’t force your way in. Keep yourself available and accessible, talking to your teen and, more importantly, listening, but don’t be get your feelings hurt when they reach out to their peers instead of you.

Encourage them to reach out for support. Friends are great for easing the pain of heartbreak. Encourage your child to establish a good support system and maintain it, even while in a relationship. Many people, both adults and teens, will neglect their friendships when in a relationship. This is a big mistake because we all need both friend relationships and romantic ones. Establishing this in your child early on will help them build and maintain a solid support system that extends beyond the family unit. Then, when heartbreak happens, you can encourage them to reach out into that support system and begin the healing process.

Listen without judgment.
Sometimes is it best to just shut up and listen. This is not the time to be critical or to point out all the mistakes that you teen made. This is not the time to tell you teen that they should have never gone out with the person. It isn’t even really the time to tell your teen that the pain will pass and they will feel better. These types of statements do not help at this time. Instead, ask questions, particularly those that encourage your teen to probe deeper into introspection. Ask questions like, “How do you think you can avoid this next time?” If they say there won’t be a next time, just say OK. Don’t argue or patronize or cajole. Just move on. Ask them what they learned, but don’t judge the answers. Just let them talk, regardless of how unrealistic the lessons seem. The true lessons are being learned and absorbed, don’t worry.

Know when it is time to get help.
Heartbreak is a part of life. You can’t get around it, can’t avoid it. We all have had our hearts broken, and we all got over it. However, if your teen seems particularly depressed and those feelings last for more than two weeks, it may be time to seek professional help. If you note a marked change in appetite, sleeping habits, performance at school, a disinterest in activities that they normally find enjoyable or a withdrawal from their friends, then you may need to intervene. A few days of this behavior, or even a week, is fairly normal, but if it is prolonged (more than two weeks) or is accompanied by thoughts of suicide or a preoccupation with death, you need to step in and get them help.

You are a parent, but you are only human. You don’t always have all the answers and you can’t always cure all the hurts. And you know what? It’s OK.

Biography
Stephanie Partridge is a freelance writer and photographer as well as a FOIA analyst for a federal agency in Washington, D.C. She is a single mom to Jeffery, 19; Micah Elizabeth, 17 and Benjamin, 15. She is also the author of the ebook, “Diet is a Dirty Word.”

Sue Scheff: Inauguration Week – Teens and Politics

inaugurationWhat an exciting week we have ahead of us!  It is amazing how today’s youths are getting involved in politics and taking the initiative to learn all they can.  This is not only a historical time for our country, there is a feeling of unity among all people of all ages.  This can also a great time to spend with your kids and explain the importance of this upcoming week.  How do you feel?  Do your kids truly understand the history of this moment?  This is a perfect opportunity to have family time and excitement as well as creating lasting memories. 

Below is an article Connect with Kids posted back in June outlining how teens really took part in this past election.  Again, an exciting time in history!

Source: Connect with Kids

“When parents talk about politics with their kids, when they participate themselves — this leads to a higher level of interest in politics among their children,”

– Dr. Alan Abramowitz, Political Science Professor, Emory University

Nineteen-year-old Will Kelly is pounding the pavement, knocking on doors and talking to voters.

Seventeen-year-old Amelia Hartley is answering phones, making copies and filing news clips.

She is a die-hard Democrat, and he is a faithful Republican. Both teenagers have a passion for politics and for getting involved.

“To be honest,” Will says of his volunteer work, “because I care about what’s going on and it troubles me to see how so many people become apathetic with what they do have in this country – that we take so much for granted.”

“At 17, I can’t vote yet, I don’t pay taxes, but within a year I’m going to have to know enough about leaders – not only national, but local and state – to be able to say who I want running things,” says Amelia of her involvement.

According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, young voters are turning up in record numbers this presidential election.

One reason, experts say, their parents.

“There has been quite a bit of research that shows that when parents talk about politics with their kids, when they participate themselves, when they take their kids to vote with them, that all this leads to a higher level of interest in politics among the children,” says Dr. Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory University.

It is a level of interest, Dr. Abramowitz adds, that persists over time. “Even many years later, those who were raised in families that were politically active and where the parents talked about politics remain more active themselves.”

Amelia and Will say they’ve been invigorated by the hard work of politics. And, in fact, it’s sparked an interest.

“Is there a future in politics for me?” Will ponders. “Well that’s a question I seem to ask myself a lot. We’ll have to see.”

“There are a lot of career paths I’m considering,” says Amelia, “and politics is definitely one of them.”

Tips for Parents

The polls are showing teens are lining up in record numbers to have their say in this year’s election.  Consider these statistics from a recent poll by Time Magazine, among 18-29 year olds:

  • 70% said they are paying attention to the race
  • 53% said Barack Obama was the candidate best described as ‘inspirational’
  • 83% said this election will have a great impact on the country
  • A majority (54%) say the US was wrong to go to war in Iraq
  • 80% of young people rate the economic conditions in this country as only fair or poor
  • Nearly three-quarters of the respondents said they feel the country is headed down the wrong track
  • Affordable health care (62%), the Iraq War (59%), and being able to find a stable, good paying job (58%) are the top issues a majority of young people worry about the most.

More than 6.5 million young people under the age of 30 participated in the 2008 primaries and caucuses.  In fact, Obama’s margin of victory in Iowa came almost entirely from voters under 25 years old.  In New Hampshire, his edge among young voters was 3 to 1; in Nevada, it was 2 to 1; and in Michigan, nearly 50,000 under-30s voted “Uncommitted” because Clinton’s name was the only one on the ballot.

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, getting kids involved in a civics or government class is a great way to get them more interested in the elections.  From the 2006 Civic and Political Health of the Nation Report, young people who report that they recently choose to take a civics or government class are more likely than other young people to say that:

  • they helped solve a community problem,
  • they can make a difference in their community,
  • they have volunteered recently,
  • they trust other people and the government,
  • they have made consumer decisions for ethical or political reasons,
  • they believe in the importance of voting, and
  • they are registered to vote.

Parents are also one of the greatest influences on young voters. 

  • Start with the basics.  Make sure your 18-year-old knows when and where to vote.
  • Getting your 18-year-old to the polls could pay big dividends.  People who have been motivated to vote once are more likely to become repeat voters. 
  • Acquire and fill out voter registration forms with your teen. If your teen meets age requirements, you should each fill out a voter registration form.
  • If your teen meets age requirements on Election Day, go to your polling place together to cast your ballots.
  • If your teen doesn’t meet age requirements for the 2008 election, but will turn 18 before the 2012 election, involve them in the current election as preparation for the next election.
  • Consider taking teens between 14 and 17 to the polling place with you.  Even if they are not permitted inside for security reasons, the visit will demystify the voting process.
  • Remind your child that the November election is the result of many local primaries and that Americans are able to vote for their national, state and local leaders.
  • Kids who are not old enough to vote can still have an impact on elections.  Encourage kids to get involved in the political process.  They can go door-to-door in support of candidates or help with fundraising efforts.
  • It can seem daunting to research candidates, because information on the different races is not centralized in one place.  Parents can share news articles with their kids.  The key is to engage students with issues they will find relevant to their lives. 

References

  • Time Magazine
  • The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement