By Cammie Jones
Ahh… young love. It is that magical thing we all relate to: stomach butterflies, permanent grins and the awkward sentiment of adoration for another. The feelings of adolescent romance are the best of highs and the sadness of the first breakup is the lowest of lows. Both usually come without warning. So, how do you keep teens moving forward after they experience that unpleasant first-time breakup?
When I asked my daughter what advice she would give to a parent whose child had just gone through a breakup with a boyfriend, she said, “Leave them alone.” All teens deal differently with their problems, but that advice may be crucial and reliable. As parental fixers, we want to help our teen get over a breakup and move past the sadness. However, sometimes leaving your child alone to cry or brood will allow a release of pent-up feelings. Then, when ready, your teen will come to you for advice or support.
Even if the relationship lasted only a few months (or weeks), it is good to avoid belittling your child for his or her feelings. For most teens, young love and the first breakup are major life experiences.
“You can say, ‘I know this is hard’ or ‘I know it’s sad when a relationship comes to an end.’ Try to avoid saying things like, ‘This isn’t really a big deal’ or ‘High school relationships don’t usually work out anyway.’ These types of comments, which are meant to minimize grief or rationalize away pain, may make your teen feel alone, trivialized, and misunderstood,” according to Aimee Morin, LCSW, 10 Ways to Help Your Teen Deal with a Breakup, verywellfamily.com.
Remember how difficult life was trying to navigate these kinds of relationships in high school? Do your best to sympathize with your child while going through what is, hopefully, a short period of mourning.
Have you been waiting to visit that new restaurant or check out the new dress shop? Now is the time to go. Try to distract your child by keeping busy. Invent distractions to create anticipation for something new. Encourage exercise or hanging out with other friends. It would be so easy to sit around and mull over a broken heart, but sometimes the best medicine is keeping busy.
“Think about your teen’s favorite activities and then schedule them throughout the day,” adds Morin. All this will help remind your child that life can still be fun and full of activities with or without a significant other.
Although your teen has just gone through a major emotional event, this is not the time to ditch school or call in sick to a part-time job. Keeping the same or similar routine will help pass the day and allow your teen to move forward in the motions. Although your child may not be in a good place emotionally, doing this will help anchor familiarity and order in daily life. You can allow leeway for moments of sadness, but drastically rearranging life by over-focusing on the breakup will make it more difficult to get back to normal. Eventually, time heals, so remind your teen that these tough feelings will not last forever.
Listen Well, Really Well
Close your mouth and open your ears. “Even better than saying anything is letting your teen talk without injecting your opinions or analysis,” says Morin. “They need a safe space to vent their frustration, confusion, hurt and any other emotions they experience without having anyone clouding or second-guessing their thoughts.”
Make sure your teen knows you are there and encourage their timing on when to come to you for support. It is normal for teens to not share every thought or detail of their breakup but reaching out to trusted friends is one way to vent. (Just caution them to choose trusted and loyal friends so their emotional status does not end up the social daily news.) Let your teen know that you are always available, without judgment or opinions, unless granted.
Take Advantage of Help
Your teen is going to be sad. She may be mad. He may feel down in the dumps. These examples are normal behaviors after a breakup. It is important that, as a parent, you observe these feelings and keep abreast of the situation. “If you notice signs of depression, eating problems, or sleeping too much or too little, it might be time to seek additional help,” advises Morin. This is the time to call your teen’s doctor to get a referral with a health professional who deals with adolescent therapy.
Most likely, after a few weeks, your teen will be over the “ex” and ready to move on. Once your child is okay and not brooding over the breakup anymore, neither should you. Time to put that experience on a shelf and leave those memories behind!
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