Ah, young love, the bane of parents around the world. Let’s be honest; teenagers are absolutely blind when it comes to love and relationships. They always expect it to last forever. They’re so sure they’ve found the one and they walk around in a hormone-infused cloud of happiness, soaring into the sky with unrequited feelings of “happy ever after.” Sadly, it doesn’t always turn out like that. If your stepdaughter’s boyfriend broke her heart, you will have to approach this situation in a way where you can make an impact as a parent even though you are not the “biological one”.
If you have a daughter, I’m not telling you things you don’t already know. You’ve seen the signs before the fall, and hopefully, you’ve braced for it. Teenagers fall in love hard and are devastated when it goes wrong so taking the steps to help your stepdaughter heal properly is important.
The Teenage Brain
It can be easy to dismiss teenage heartbreak because of the over-the-top reaction. After all, everyone goes through it, right? It’s just part of growing up. While this is true, the emotional aspect is incredibly intense in the teenage years, and it deserves respect.
It’s important to understand that your step-daughter’s brain isn’t fully developed yet.
What may seem utterly dramatic and over the top to you is honestly her way of expressing the emotions she’s feeling. Young love is intense and impulsive, and there’s no logic to be found anywhere. This is because the frontal cortex isn’t fully developed until well into a child’s twenties. The frontal cortex is directly responsible for tailoring expectations to align with reality. It’s the logic center.
For your step-daughter, her brain is faulting to the amygdala, the same part of the brain that controls the fight or flight response. This part has caused her to make rash decisions time and time again that leave you wondering what on earth she was thinking.
On top of that, she’s battling hormones that heighten everything. While her amygdala is screaming at her, the pituitary gland is pumping tons of acne-inducing estrogen and progesterone into every thought and action.
So What Can I Do?
While this is handy information, please don’t pull it out on a chart to explain why she’s feeling the way she is. Whenever someone comes up to me saying “my stepdaughter’s boyfriend broke her heart”, I always remind them that there is a process to accomplish the goal of getting her out of this slump.
She’s intelligent enough to understand, but right now, her emotions are standing front and center, and the best way to help her is to treat this broken heart like it’s valuable and real.
What would you do for a friend? What do you wish your parents had done for you? Those are the questions you need to ask yourself. The beauty of parenting is being able to alter it in any way you want, and the beauty of step-parenting is being able to lend an ear that she desperately needs without the cautions and judgment that often come from bio-parents.
Even if the bio-parent isn’t doing this, a girl will assume and internalize certain thoughts that make her wary of approaching them. This is especially true if she’s gotten the vibe that her dad or mom didn’t like the boy to begin with.
Start by validating her feelings. Don’t badmouth the boyfriend because she wouldn’t be heartbroken if she didn’t like him. Let her blubber her way through why she liked him so much and how she doesn’t understand what happened. It’s tempting to say, “he’s not worth it,” but we’re saving that for later.
Remember, she’s probably in school with him, and she’s going to have to face him day in and day out.
Not only that, but teenagers get a lovely set of blinders when they fall in love, and they focus solely on their new partner day in and day out. Not only has she lost a friend, but she’s also lost the person she texted and chatted with nonstop for weeks or months that put the dopey smile on her face you’ve been seeing.
Steps To Take If Stepdaughter’s Boyfriend Broke Her Heart
If you’re at a total loss of active ways to manage this heartbreak, we’re here to help. Feeling seen and heard is step one. Next comes distraction. It will be our little secret that you pulled these ideas from an article on the internet.
- Start with comfy pajamas. This is going to be a long evening or week. She’s not ready to face the world, and that’s okay. Create a safe space for her to hermit up in, at least for a little while.
- Bring out the ice cream. Yes, as cliche as it sounds, now is the time to let her eat her feelings. Grab a gallon of each of your favorites, leave the bowls behind, and get two spoons.
- Turn the lights low. Heartbreak is ugly and doesn’t need to be dissected under harsh lighting. Her eyes are probably puffy from crying, and she’ll be lucky if she doesn’t have a headache. Speaking of which, if she does, make sure she’s drinking plenty of water and let her get some rest.
- Start a movie marathon. Stay away from romance and drama, even if they’re her favorite genres. Let her choose a comedy she’s been wanting to see, or a comforting movie from her childhood.
- Let her break down again. It’s coming; it always does. One second, she’s got her emotions under control, and the next, something has reminded her and started the cycle all over again. Let her grieve and be there for her. Rinse and repeat for up to a week.
Once this week is over, it’s time to pull out the big ideas.
She has mourned her loss, but this can quickly result in depression and suicidal thoughts if it goes too far. It’s time for her to come back swinging. It’s time…for a makeover. Fake it until you make it is the mantra here, and you can tell her I said so. She needs to be able to hold her head high and appear unaffected at this point.
- Schedule a mani/pedi. Let her go as wild as she wants to with the colors and style. This hour-long session of pampering is step one towards making her feel valued and bolstering her self-esteem.
- Get her hair done. We aren’t talking about crisis bangs, though if they’d look amazing on her, that’s okay. We’re talking the whole works of shampoo and conditioning treatment, a cut and or color, and a blowout. Let her feel pretty and fresh.
- Take her shopping. A special outfit can bring confidence levels to an all-time high. She’s joined the heartbreak club, the right of passage, and every woman feels a little better in new digs.
- Call her girlfriends over. Make sure she is surrounded by people who love her. Let them have an entire weekend of fun. Offer to take them out somewhere she can show off her new look.
At this point, you’re done. She will have to learn from this experience and apply it for the rest of her life. By giving her the room to grieve and showing her how to make a fresh start, you’ve done your absolute best to set her up for ways to handle future heartbreak. Hopefully, she’ll bounce back in no time!
Final Thoughts – My Stepdaughter’s Boyfriend Broke Her Heart
Let me be very clear. Teenagers sometimes dwell on the hard stuff and fall into depression. It can be tempting to brush it aside and tell yourself she’ll be alright, but pay careful attention to any changing habits.
This first heartbreak is a pivotal time, and if it’s affecting her in ways beyond the norm, it’s time to speak to a professional before it gets out of hand. Please talk with your co-parents about your fears and worries and ask them to help you find a counselor for her to speak with.
If her bios brush it off, and you’re genuinely concerned, keep mentioning it until something is done. You’re an advocate for her mental health, and because you’re a step removed, it’s sometimes easier for you to see the warning signs.
Just in case you don’t hear it often enough, thank you for all you do as a step-parent. I know you can feel somewhat unappreciated at times, but you truly are making a difference!