Most of us can remember how painfully sad we felt after our first breakup. Sometimes we were told that we were too young to know what real love was, or that it was just puppy love and we’d get over it, or you might have heard the ever popular “there’s more than one fish in the sea. “
I remember my first heartbreak. I was about 14 and the love of my life moved to Alaska. Alaska!!!
I cried for days and felt like the pain would never end. Eventually my heartbreak subsided and I moved on. My mother was very understanding – she liked my boyfriend too. She didn’t tell me to get over it or to try and forget about him. She just listened, held me in her arms and let me know that yes, this was going to be hard but I was going to get through it.
I don’t think things have changed that much since my first breakup. It still hurts and is difficult to get over. When you’re a pre-teen, teenager or young adult you just don’t have the life experience to know that these things happen to everyone and you can and will get through it.
What can parents do to help their child deal with a breakup? Experts say the number one action parents can take is to listen. Sometimes things happen that a teen doesn’t have any control over – like the family is transferred and has to move away. Most times I suspect the two personalities just didn't work well together.
While it may be tempting, bringing up all the “bad traits” of the one who is gone won’t help. It’s not your break-up; it’s your child’s. You may be thrilled that the boyfriend or girlfriend is out of the picture, but it doesn’t matter. There is always the possibility that they may get back together so don’t say anything that you can’t take back.
Your child is dealing with emotions that they may not be familiar with. What they need now is unconditional love and someone to talk to who will listen and respect how they feel. If you’re not available they will put their heart in the hands of friends, and sometimes friends think the best way to get over anything is to either party hardy, act out or blast someone on social media.
Not all friends respond that way of course. Many teens are thoughtful and supportive and will make every effort to help their friend feel better about the situation. But a parent or guardian should be the true touchstone for their heartbroken teen.
You can help your child identify their feelings and find constructive ways to express them. Humiliation, anger, and sadness are strong emotions. Even as adults we still have trouble keeping those in check. So imagine how hard it is for an adolescent.
This is one of those crossroads that many of us have faced and so it’s difficult, as parents, to not try to make everything better. The hardest thing to do is to let your child work something out for him or her self when pain and heartache are involved. But sometimes you have to not take a stand and just be supportive. Let them cry and mourn – give them the time they need. As they begin to adjust make sure they have something positive to do, something that helps them build the self-confidence they need to move on. It may be time to reconnect with old friends, develop a hobby, get involved in sports or the arts or both. The good thing about physical activity is that it releases helpful hormones, such as endorphins, and requires attention and focus – a positive way to take their mind off of the breakup.
While it’s good to let your teen make important decisions in his or her life, there is a time when parents have to step in. If your child is or was involved with someone where physical or emotional abuse, or drug or alcohol use is part of the scenario. That’s a situation that requires taking a stand and possibly family counseling.
You also need to keep an eye out for depression that doesn’t go away. Some depression is normal when a person loses a loved one (or a really- really liked one) in their life. But too deep a depression can be dangerous. Some symptoms of teen depression are loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, feelings of worthlessness, guilt or fixation on past failures, exaggerated self- blame and self-criticism. Other symptoms can include trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things. Any discussions about death, dying or suicide should be taken seriously. Go with your gut feeling and make a doctor’s appointment right away for your child to get help.
Something else to consider is that breakups aren’t limited to romantic relationships. Young girls and boys can feel a deep loss when they lose their BFF (best friend forever.) They need the same kind of support and understanding. A loss is still a loss.
Most of all maintain a positive attitude. Your teen and his or her friend may makeup and get back together or they may move on and learn the hard truth about breakups. They hurt. Either way, they’ll join a long list of others who’ve been there and done that. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to hold them in your arms, let them cry and then let them know that they will eventually laugh and smile again.