If anything is an absolute truth of human existence, it is this: breakups are painful. And for the parent of a teenager, a breakup can be especially painful. Not only is your teen miserable; you may think he or she is dedicating all of their time to making you miserable as well! If you’ve found yourself wondering how you can help your teen survive his or her first breakup, or you’re just interested in managing the mood swings that come with a first broken heart, here’s what to do:
Check Your Perspective
In order to understand what your teenager is going through, it’s important to look at the breakup from his or her perspective. While teenagers are in many ways like adults, they’re still not developmentally mature enough to understand how relationships work or to recognize that strong feelings do not mean a relationship will last forever. In your teenager’s mind, he has just lost the most wonderful person in the world, shaking his faith in everything and his ability to believe in anything. Keeping this in mind is the first step in helping your teen. This disillusionment, while painful, is an important part of growing up, and knowing how painful it is for your teen can help you to help him.
Take It Seriously
Teenage feelings are often larger than life, and heavily steeped in illusion and melodrama. While you may find it hard to believe that your teen really loved the person she has just broken up with, now is not the time to dismiss the magnitude of your teenager’s feelings. Understand that, whether or not you liked the boyfriend or girlfriend, this person was the most important person in the world to your teen, and approach things from this perspective.
Provide a Distraction
Everyone’s grief is less painful if they get a chance to be occasionally distracted from it, and your teenager is no different. Offer to take him out to dinner or plan a fun family day together. Also consider planning a night for your teen to spend with his friends, since they will likely be his strongest support.
Allow Some Privacy
While you should be checking in with your teen and making it clear that you’re ready and willing to provide support, we all need time alone to process our feelings. Cut your teen some slack if she doesn’t want to participate in family activities for a few days or weeks, and allow her some quality time with herself to process through things.
When we are depressed it is easy to feel isolated, like we’re the only person in the world who’s ever felt this kind of pain. And of course the natural conclusion from here is that the pain will kill us. Help your teen feel less isolated by sharing some of your own experiences, talking about your own first breakup, and reassuring her that, although it hurts, the pain will eventually subside. While the fact that breakups get better is common knowledge to adults, teens have never been through one and so don’t know this. Make sure you share this important information with your teenager.
Help Her Get The Lesson
In every tragedy, large or small, there’s some lesson to be learned. After the initial grief has worn off, start talking to your teen about what she can learn from this experience. Part of the process of being able to relate to people in a mature, adult way is learning from each relationship, and you can help your child begin the process of doing this from a very early age.