Teen break-ups no joke

That first love can feel like walking on air to teenagers. /PHOTOS 123rf
That first love can feel like walking on air to teenagers. /PHOTOS 123rf

Your teen is in love. They are cheerful and walk around the house like they are floating on air.

You constantly play the chaperone, always dropping them off on dates at the mall or movie theatres. Your teen could not be happier. They are in love and no one can tell them otherwise.

And then it all comes crashing down.

First love intensity a future spoiler

Research done by a team of sociologists led by Dr Malcom Brynin from the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex suggests that intense first love can ruin our perception of future relationships.

This research was included in his book Changing Relationships, which was released in 2012. He says first love can damage relationships as you may compare future partners to your first love.

"The problems start if you try not only to get everything you need for an adult relationship, but also strive for the heights of excitement and intensity you had in your first experience of love. The solution is clear: if you can protect yourself from intense passion in your first relationship, you will be happier in your later relationships," he says.

Suddenly, your teen is in a foul mood. You do a bit of digging and find out that their beautiful love story is running the end credits.

Most parents are usually stuck on how to deal with their teen's first heartbreak. Some feel a sense of despair while others are dismissive and wish their kids would get over it already.

In the meantime, your teen is walking around the house like a catatonic zombie. Irritable and sulking.

Psychologist Mampho Mofokeng cautions that dismissing your child's first heartbreak is a bad idea.

"Most parents often dismiss their child's first love as nothing but puppy love. While it may be so, the truth is that the reason you as the parent are able to recognise it as puppy love is because you have a few years on your child. You know better, but your child doesn't," Mofokeng says.

"To them, losing their first love causes life to come to a complete halt. Think about it, they had never experienced the butterflies and the euphoria of being infatuated before, just as they have never experienced the searing pain that comes with a break-up. So it is important to treat the situation with kid gloves, pun intended."

Mofokeng says parents need to watch for red flags indicating that their child is plummeting into depression.

"There have been many reports of teenagers who have contemplated, attempted and even committed suicide over a break-up. In fact, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group has listed break-ups as one of the major reasons why teens commit suicide. This should give parents a wake-up call."

Keeping the lines of communication open is key, according to Mofokeng.

"As a parent, you need to establish a type of relationship with your child where they can come to you with literally anything. And this begins way earlier, before they hit their teens and start showing an interest in the opposite sex.

"Having this type of relationship with your child from a young age will certainly make them feel comfortable enough to confide in you about different issues, especially when it comes to being in love.

"This will also help you as a parent to be able to intervene when you believe that your child has slipped into depression over their lost love."

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