When your kid goes through a breakup, it can be even more difficult on you. You feel helpless to make it better. Here are some tips to help you and your adolescent get through a breakup the smoothest way.
1. Don’t Minimize
First love is different from other love. It is all in with no holding back and then boom, it’s gone. It is often the first time the teen is experiencing the ending of a relationship. Girls may fair better than boys if they have had the experience and heartbreak of losing a close girlfriend.
Remember that because there are no inhibitions or boundaries, the pain of the breakup doesn’t necessarily correlate with the length of the relationship.
The pain is real for them and is especially strong since they have never experienced it before and are not sure how to deal with it. Let him grieve for awhile.
2. Offer Them Support and Them Give Space
Don’t be intrusive and ask a bunch of questions, rather make a point to be available to listen with your undivided attention if they want to talk.
Show them you are a safe haven to express whatever they are feeling. Many times if a parent tries to start the conversation, the teen shuts them down.
Just let your child know you are there for her when she would like to talk.
3. Don’t Lecture
While showing support be very careful not to give advice until they ask for it. They probably have mixed feelings about the ex so no matter what you say it will be wrong. Aim to keep them talking and you listening.
4. Don’t Diss The Ex
Don’t talk negatively about the ex. That won’t help them mourn the loss any faster. Maintain a neutral stance. “You’ll find someone better” isn’t the best way to go. Never say “She wasn’t good enough for you.”
The idea behind saying these things is to help your child feel better, but it ends up sounding like a criticism towards their choice in boyfriend or girlfriend. Keep the focus on helping your child get better. Say things like “It really hurts to lose someone you love” or “I’m so sorry you have to go through this.”
5. Don’t Get Involved Yourself
As a parent it can be crushing to watch your child go through something so painful. You want so badly to make it better.
It can be tempting to contact the ex yourself and try to “fix” the relationship or give them a piece of your mind. This is never a good idea as it is bound to make the situation worse as well as teach your child that you do not believe they are capable of handling the breakup on their own.
6. Don’t Let Your Feelings Dominate
If you’ve grown attached to your child’s ex, you may also be disappointed that the relationship is over. While you may have already had the wedding planned in your mind, keep these feelings to yourself.
Don’t add to your child’s distress and instead talk about these feelings with your partner or trusted friend. Remember this might end up being tougher on you than it is on them. This could be the first time you’ve watched your child go through adult-like pain.
7. Share Your Own Stories
Empathize with your child by sharing your own young relationships stories and how they ended. Reminisce about how miserable you were and how you pulled through with enough time. Show them old photos and use it as a time to bond with each other.
8. Keep Them Healthy
Some studies have shown exercise to be just as effective for treating depression as antidepressants. Endorphins are very important for mood regulation. Suggest your teen try out a new dance or exercise class or go for a bike ride.
Water balloons are my favorite and can be played with siblings, parents or friends. Mindfulness and focus can be incorporated by starting very close to the other person/people and tossing the balloon back and forth stepping farther apart after each toss.
I’ve played this game with many clients and it’s nearly impossible for them to feel depressed while being forced to focus on the moment and attempt to “avoid” getting wet. It serves as a great reminder that they can take steps to control their emotions.
9. Encourage Them to Get Back to Daily Life
It is important to encourage them to keep up with their responsibilities and stay active doing the things they enjoy. A trip to the movie theater with friends, shopping, or a spa day. And of course they need to go to school, finish homework, and attend if they have an after school sport or job.
10. Remind Them Of the Positives
Breakups teach important lessons. They foster resilience and help your child learn coping skills and mood regulation as well as how to forgive themselves and others.
Most relationships don’t last. It’s not a happy way of looking at it, but even if they get married, many end in divorce. If not divorce someone will pass away first. Learning to deal with the ending of a relationship is a skill life requires.
Given that, falling in love is a risk worth taking. It is worth the pain at the end if you choose the right person to be with for a certain amount of time.
11. When to Seek Therapy
If your child is especially sad, feels hopeless, worthless, has trouble sleeping, or the breakup is impairing their ability to function for long periods of time, then by all means give me a call. Other red flags include drug use, self harm or suicidal ideation.
If there are big changes in behavior and sadness starts to seem like depression, seek help. You know your kid best. You may be able to give her a head start on learning how to deal with this type of pain. Pain she will likely feel many more times in her life.
Breakups can highlight and exacerbate many negative beliefs about yourself, especially in the teen years. I use a technique called EMDR that works especially well with targeting these beliefs and replacing them with positive ones instead. It’s very well researched and recommended by the American Psychiatric Association.
Call me today and we can talk about if it can help your child.