Teen milestones: heartbreak

Teen milestones: heartbreak

Breaking up with someone is never easy, but for a teenager the lows of relationships can seem like the end of the world. Here are a few tips to help you ‘be there’ for your child.

Just as with so many other aspects of your teenager’s increasingly independent life, you are no longer called upon to ‘kiss and make it better’ when emotions get hurt. However, this could be just the kind of time when your teen retreats to home much more, wishing to avoid his or her ex and seeking a few familiar comforts that feel a lot more permanent. Whether you have a good, chatty relationship with your son or daughter, or you rarely discuss affairs of the heart, here are a few things to bear in mind when heartbreak strikes.

‘Being there’ for your heartbroken teenager
It’s never fun when someone breaks up with you, but often a split is quite a wrench for the person ending the relationship too, especially if the cause for this was uncertainty about the other person’s feelings. (Haven’t we all been there at one time or another?!) Bear that in mind, whatever your own teen’s current predicament is.

  • It’s not your drama. You should be sympathetic, lend an ear and offer a few reassuring, supportive words when needed, but there is no need to appear as devastated as your child.

  • If you got to know your teen’s ex over the months or even years they were together, don’t make a big deal of how you feel. You can be tactful and honest about sharing your child’s upset, but avoid saying things like, ‘I never liked him anyway,’ or ‘Oh, but she was so lovely.’ We’ve all got grown-up friends who we’ve comforted with phrases like ‘Good riddance’ only to be left feeling awkward when they make up with their ex! And reminding your teen of how nice their ex was isn’t going to help matters!

  • Don’t underestimate your teen’s heartbreak. You might believe ‘There’s plenty more fish in the sea’ but don’t voice that thought. Look back to your own teenage years – when even sitting on the same bus as a fancied boy could bring you out in a cold sweat – and you’ll appreciate the extreme highs and lows your child is probably feeling.

  • If your teen does want to talk, be a good listener. Don’t rush to offer lots of solutions and try to fix things. Instead share your own experiences. You don’t need to go into lots of detail, but recalling your own teenage break-ups will help you convey the fact that you do understand what’s happening.

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  • If you are divorced from your teen’s father, try to reassure him or her that not all relationships end badly. You might do this directly through conversation, or just by ensuring that your child can see that communications are open and that (hopefully) there is a friendship between you and his or her dad.

  • It might be nice having your child about the house a bit more again, and allowing him or her to retreat to the bedroom is fine, but do make sure that he or she is eating well and beginning to get back on to a path of recovery too, seeing mates, being physically active (even if it’s bowling rather than a worthy hour-long swim).

  • Just as older brothers teasing siblings wasn’t acceptable in childhood, don’t let younger sisters or brothers use a break-up to mock their ‘elders’ now. You will know your teen best, some don’t need to have everyone pussyfoot around them, but that doesn’t mean their experience should become a joke in order to lighten the household mood.

  • Look ahead. Encourage the good things in your child’s life – do something together that you both enjoy, whether it’s a shopping trip, going to a football match or going to your teen’s favourite restaurant for dinner one night.

  • Lastly. Be vigilant. It doesn’t matter how long your teen had been dating, a break-up can affect some people really badly. Be mindful of the possibility of teenage depression. If this becomes a worry, speak to your GP about local resources that might help.

  • Even if your child can’t talk to you about his or her problems, a gentle reminder that you care (or even just a passing comment along similar lines to one of your child’s friends who is a confidante) leaves the door open for your support to be called upon when it’s needed.

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Just been through this with my son. My only advice is listen, be sympathetic and just be there x

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Mother of a 16 year old daughter and 17 year old son here! We are close. The best you can offer in a breakup situation is plenty of hugs, a listening ear, some deep talks if they instigate it, and some laughter to keep everything on an even keel.

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