A father told me yesterday afternoon that he was worried about his pre-teen son’s future break-up habits and how they would effect his son and his son’s future, theoretical dating partners. (Might sound a bit preemptive, but I had asked this dad to tell me his biggest fears around his son’s sexuality, and this is one of the things that he was the most worried about.)
I’m working under the assumption that if one parent has this fear, so do others. So here’s what I told him:
Break-ups suck, regardless of the age. But they are potentially a good long-term learning experience for teenagers. (If there are any teenagers reading this, please forgive me! Keep reading and I hope I’ll win you over.)
It’s good for teenagers to learn how to handle re-grouping after a rejection. And it’s also good for teenagers to learn how to make a considered rejection.
There are lots of times that we get rejected. It can be by a love-interest, by a college, by a publishing agent, by potential job, by a current job (getting fired or “reassigned”). And learning how to hold on to your self-compassion through such an event is critical. Adolescence is a pretty good time to learn – the stakes aren’t as high as with a marriage or a career. It still hurts, it still sucks big time. But it also teaches re-grouping skills in a very effective, hands-on way.
There are also lots of times we need to reject someone else. This can be as simple as saying no to a request for a date to as complicated as firing a friendly co-worker who is the only breadwinner for her family. Again, this can be emotionally draining, but sometimes you’ve got to do it anyway. Not very many people are good at saying no gracefully and then let the other person deal with their own hurt feelings. And learning how to do it as well as possible is better to do as a teenager than as an adult. Because the stakes are lower.
When’s the last time you were rejected or you rejected someone else? Do you feel like you handled it well? Do you feel like the other party handled it well?