In our society, romance is all around us. Ooey-gooey love stories are glamorized and set high expectations for young relationships. Teens may not yet be aware of the fact that relationships are not usually how they are portrayed in TV shows or in the movies. The intensity in these storybook relationships draw teens in, and these skewed expectations are part of what can contribute to how hard teens take their first, or first, few break-ups. In your teen’s eyes, they may have envisioned their first relationship as something that would last a lifetime. They may have fallen so hard and so fast that they couldn’t possibly imagine the relationship would ever end. Your teen taking their break-up hard is really just a part of growing and learning for them. Because, as we all know, it’s called heartbreak for a reason!
As a parent, dealing with your child’s break-up can also be very difficult. You may ask yourself questions like, “Why isn’t my teen talking to me about the break-up? What can I do to take their pain away? Why are they acting like it is the end of the world? How can I find out what happened?” It is normal to have these thoughts and to feel worried about your teen. While every teen takes a break-up differently, remembering the following few tips can assist you with helping your teen cope.
- Give space--Your teen may not want to talk about their break-up, and that is ok. Give your teen their own space to feel and express their feelings-- whether they are angry, sad, or betrayed--is important. Your teen needs to be able to feel and work through their feelings in order to start healing.
- Communicate--Letting your teen know that you love them and that you are there for them when they are ready to talk can also be very helpful. In the end, teens may or may not want to talk about their break-up with you, but leaving the door open is always beneficial.
- Show empathy not judgment--Acknowledge the feelings that your teen is expressing, and normalize those feelings. Let your teen know that you see their anger and/or sadness and that they have every right to feel that way. You might even share a little about one of your own break-ups to help them understand that their pain is normal. Stay away from minimizing the break-up and the feelings associated with it. The last thing any teen (or most adults) wants to hear is, “Why are you making such a big deal out of this?”
- Suggest journaling--If your teen makes it clear that he/she does not want to speak with you or anyone else regarding their break-up, suggest that they write down what they are going through, thinking and feeling in a journal.
- Respect their privacy--Try to stay away from asking your teen’s friends or ex-boyfriend/girlfriend what happened. If your teen does decide to write in a journal, please do not read it, no matter how tempting that may be. Teens can feel very vulnerable during this time, and their privacy means a lot to them. Giving your teen their privacy can go a long way toward building or maintaining trust and maybe even will lead them to want to open up more with you next time.
Break-ups are inevitable for teens, but having some awareness of how to be there for your teen can help. Hopefully, with time, your teen will be back to their normal self. In the meantime, remember, your teen has the right to feel what they are feeling about their break-up, and this experience will help your teen learn how to best cope with future challenges. Please do not take it personally if your teen does not want to talk to you about their break-up. It is developmentally normal for your teen not to want to talk to you about their relationships but to share everything with their friends instead. All you can really do as a parent is let your teen know that you respect them, love them and are there for them when they need you.
By Allison Barragan, Associate MFT
Thrive Therapy & Counseling
1614 X St., Suite A
Sacramento, CA 95818
PS--If your teen or your family needs some extra support, we'd love to help. Just shoot us a message!