THE BLOG
02/03/2016 03:35 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Teens and Love: How Should a Parent Handle Their Child's First Heartbreak?

Sad Sam fell in love in tenth grade. He was quiet and cautious. He and his girl made good friends. They talked to each other about anything. By his senior year Sam decided to reach and hold her hand. This was long in coming. I

n a text, Julia said she only wanted friendship. She was going to college and would be living at home, but couldn't have a steady boyfriend.

The text stung--not even in person.

Shattered, Sam lost his grip. He moped around, argued incessantly with his mother about anything, and had trouble concentrating at school. He, too, was going to college but living at home. Freshman year began and all he could think about was his wished for girlfriend. His yearning was intense. He texted her every day saying "Hey" until he was told by anyone who listened that he was chasing her.

Sam is a shy guy. He has few friends, just got his first job, and gets by in school. He doesn't have too many interests except sports and lounges around a lot of the day when he doesn't have something structured to do. At least high school was an all day thing. But college gave him lots of free time and he wasn't an avid student.

His mother seemed to take his arguing personally. She felt he was lazy. But his dad understood he was yearning for his girl and struggling deeply.

What Was Dad to Do?

Dad spent a lot of time listening to Sam. This was a good plan. The more Sam talked about the girl the less he missed her. He needed to talk and talk and tolerate the feeling of loss. His father understood this. He helped him refrain from texting several times a day to the girl and then moved to a few times a week and then finally to once a week.

This meant that the dad was teaching Sam to tolerate his feelings, a very hard task indeed. This is an essential skill in life and dad knew it.

Listening and being available was really what dad needed to do and he did it. Eventually Sam couldn't give up seeing his old girlfriend but they remained talking as friends. They shared his arguments with his mother, they watched the Superbowl , and took walks sharing their new experiences at college.

Eventually, maybe Sam will meet another girl and be able to have a final separation, but for now he needs just what he's got. Heartbreak with dad holding his feelings at bay and learning how to tolerate them bit by bit.

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Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst with a recent book that discusses the parent-teen relationship,Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child's Behavior. It can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Familius and wherever books are found.