The end of a first love is crushing – more soul destroying and more hurtful than almost any other. As a teenager it can be excruciating, managing the feelings of rejection and feeling wounded and rebuffed. Teenagers’ emotional lives often run at break neck emotional speeds and rational thought can be left behind in the angst of a love lost. Couple this with instant communication and disaster is not far away.
It is almost ingrained in the teenager’s mind that when the need to communicate arises one turns immediately to digital devices to mend a broken heart. In the hands of a ‘dumped’ boyfriend or girlfriend, to use the teenage vernacular, these devices can become a dangerous weapon viciously expressing feelings of humiliation and despair.
Deidre asks: I have been going out with my boyfriend for 7 months now and at the beginning of our relationship everything was great, but then he started getting demanding and telling me not to talk to my friends. He also told me to stop going to parties and he deleted all the phone numbers from my phone. Every time I see him he checks all my messages and also my calls to see if I’m talking to my friends. I don’t know what to do anymore. He puts so much stress in my life. What should I do?
Jasper asks: I broke up with my girlfriend last week. We are in Year 9 and have been going out for 3 months. She is very angry and has started abusing me on Facebook. She is also texting me and ringing me leaving messages for me saying that I should take her back. I like her but as a friend and I can’t take it any more – she is even smsing me at 3 in the morning. Also she is posting facebook statuses saying that no girls should go out with me – she tells them things about me that I haven’t done and she uses very bad words about me that I can’t write here but I am sure you know what I mean – and she has told all my friends to defriend me. How can I make her stop?
What to do?
Parents can support their teens by understanding that relationships these days are often played out both online and in public – and teens need their parents’ guidance in establishing appropriate boundaries for healthy relationships. At the time of a break up young love is even more complex. If you have been rejected (sometimes publicly) you can feel angry and humiliated. Retaliation can be an instant reaction and with instant communication things can go horribly wrong. A few texts a day can turn into a few hundred. Relentless and unreasonable demands escalate. They may spread lies, impersonate someone, or even resort to blackmail. Teens need to talk to a parent or a teacher and ask for help. This is not normal behaviour and they need to know that they should not put up with it
Start a discussion. Your teen may not tell you if harassment is happening directly to him or her. You could ask them to read the questions from the teens above and use this as a starting point. What would their advice be? Have they ever been in this situation?
Let them know you’re always there for them. Remind teens often that you’re always available to talk to. While you’re at it, remind them about the School Counselor, a teacher, or even a friend’s parent, an older student – knowing that they have a trusted adult to talk to may encourage teens to speak up.
Help them set boundaries. Tell teens never share passwords, send revealing photos. Remind them how far these photos can travel in the wrong hands. Remind them that issues that include sensitive feelings should always be dealt with face to face never online.