Do you remember the anguish of your first heartbreak? How it felt as though the world was ending and you’d never be happy again? Relationship breakups are part of being a teenager – they were for us, and they are for our children. It’s hard to see your kids go through such pain, but you can’t stop it. All you can do is be there, and follow our tips to help your teen deal with a broken heart.
Let them cry
We all know how much better we feel after we’ve bawled our eyes out sometimes. Crying will release some of the emotion and stress your child is feeling. Encourage them to let it all out, as often as they need.
It’s hard to see our kids upset, but crying is an important part of the grieving process. (And that’s what this is – we shouldn’t forget that.) Be there with a shoulder to cry on, literally, and have plenty of tissues to hand.
Give comfort in different ways
No matter how grown-up your teenager likes to think they are, at times like this they need their parents. Making them feel safe and loved is one of the best ways you can help.
Hug them. Cook their favourite meals. Offer to make them hot chocolate. Sit and cuddle in front of a movie. Spoil them a little to show you care and recognise the trauma they’re going through. Knowing you’re there for them will make them feel better.
Don’t say “We’ve all been there”
Even though it’s true, your experience won’t be the same as your child’s. And they wouldn’t care if it was, because they don’t believe anyone else can truly understand how they feel right now. Nobody’s pain has been greater than theirs, ever. Emotions generally run high when it comes to teenagers, but right now they’re even more intense.
The trick is to show empathy without implying their situation isn’t unique. Phrases such as “That must be really painful to think about/difficult to deal with” will stand you in good stead.
Don’t tell them they’ll get over it
At this stage, they don’t want to get over it. They’ve lost the love of their life – as far as they’re concerned, they’ll never be happy again. They want to wallow in the memories and imagine a touching reconciliation.
Telling them they’ll find someone else is similarly unhelpful. Right now, your teenager can’t imagine feeling attracted to anyone else ever again.
Saying they’ll get over it will make your child feel you don’t understand, and they’ll be less likely to come to you for comfort or advice. Even though you know it’s true, keep it to yourself.
Don’t get caught in the middle
You’ll want to show your teen you’re in their corner. Maybe you never liked the person who caused this heartbreak in the first place. Either way, it’s not a good idea to criticise. Your child still has strong feelings for them – it’s why they feel so bad. And who knows, they could get back together in a few days – they’re teenagers, after all. Whatever you think about them right now, it’s wise to keep it to yourself.
Similarly, don’t go on social media and badmouth the other person publicly. Don’t wade into any of your child’s online discussions on the topic, if there are any. Stay out of it, let your child handle it, and be there when you’re needed.
Give them some space
It’s important to show your teenager you care, but at the same time, you need to give them have their own space. If they want to stay in their room listening to sad music, let them. They need time to reflect on what’s happened and process their emotions. Pop your head in now and then to make sure they’re ok or ask if they want a cup of tea. Just not too often.
Conversely, some teenagers will prefer to be around their family. They’ll want hugs, conversation and to talk about what happened. Or they might turn to their friends, confiding in them rather than you. Hard as it may be, you should follow their lead.
Share stories (but not immediately)
This is about your teen, not you – so don’t start telling them all about your heartbreaks straight away. It could make them feel you’re taking their tragedy away from them. After the initial trauma, though, sharing your experiences can be helpful as long as you don’t focus on them too much.
Validate their feelings
Let your child know it’s ok to feel the way they do – that under the circumstances, it makes sense. Knowing you accept and understand the hurt they are going through will help them work through it.
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