She is only nine years old! You are baffled but it is true, love can enter (and exit!) your son or your daughter’s life as early as that, even if it usually happens around the age of twelve.
The first heartbreak can leave deeper scars than the next ones, says Chantal Belhumeur, psychologist. “I see adults in their thirties, even in their forties, who come in consultation and who still remember their first broken heart!” she says.
The broken heart of your child or pre-teen will not necessarily leave such a mark but some children are more vulnerable than others to the pains of love.
Intense pain: internal risk factors
Boys and girls are probably affected at different levels by the poisonous arrows of love but since there are very few studies on the subject, it is hard to name those differences.
There are, however, some individual characteristics that predispose people to pain, according to Mrs. Belhumeur. “There are risk factors and there are protective factors”. Teenagers who suffer from attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more fragile because they are more emotive: a simple broken heart can make them feel so bad that they can become a danger for themselves. Stories of teenagers involved in car accidents because their anger and pain led them to drive too fast don’t just happen in movies.
Even if all kids don’t reach this level of sadness, their personality and temper determine how they will face this storm.
External risk factors
Parents, who usually represent the first role model for their children and teenagers, can also play a part in the reaction to a broken heart. Separated or unstable parents can have an influence on the way their child will behave in their love life.
The nature and the strength of the bond between a teenager and his parents will also affect the impact and the scope of the rupture, says Mrs. Belhumeur.
Cushion the blow
We can try to protect our children from the harsh realities of life all we want, there are some things that they cannot avoid and broken hearts are one of these. Parents can still prepare their teenagers from a brutal fall by building a relationship on strong foundations of trust, says Chantal Belhumeur. “It is important to make sure that your child trusts you if you want him to talk more easily about his sadness. You can also remind him that he can, if he feels the need to do so, confide in a teacher or another family member”.
It is not necessary to warn our child of the possibility of a broken heart, says the psychologist. By creating a climate of trust for our teenager, we show him that our door will always be open and if a separation actually occurs we can give him a few advices.
Pick up the pieces of his broken heart!
Don’t be fooled! Long before you can offer your long list of wise advices, you must listen to him if you want to truly help him. Also, you should avoid minimizing the importance of his rupture and most importantly, you should never lecture him with verdicts like: “She wasn’t right for you anyway”.
You think that your teen is afflicted but he didn’t say anything and doesn’t share his thoughts enough? The best thing to do is to talk about general emotions by asking, for example: “Why do you look angry?” A question like that usually opens to discussion. If, in spite of what you try, your child shuts like an oyster, tell him that it’s okay if he doesn’t want to talk to you but that he can if he needs to.
You could also try to make him feel better by cooking his favourite meal or taking him out.
Parents who have a difficult relationship with their teen can guide him to another person of trust. It could be someone close, a friend, a school worker or even a teacher.