There’s no love quite like the first love; unfortunately, the first love also tends to be among the most painful when things inevitably end. While your teen may be walking through the house with a permanent smile on her face and visions of forever in her mind, you know that it’s likely just a matter of time before the bloom falls from the rose and real life sets in. Helping your teen navigate the painful and complicated world of surviving her first heartbreak isn’t easy, but it’s something that every parent will inevitably have to help with along the way. Handling the situation badly can be actively damaging to your own relationship with your teenager, so be sure that you have a basic idea of how to proceed in order to help her recover without sacrificing the harmony in your home.
Be Supportive, Not Smothering
Your teen needs to know that you’re there for her when she needs you, but she’ll also need to deal with the trauma and pain of her first real break-up in her own way. That may mean hours on the phone with her friends dissecting what went wrong and exploring the natural journey of grief, or it could mean throwing herself into extracurricular activities in a bid to fill up all of her free time. Provided that she doesn’t resort to risky or dangerous behavior as a means of soothing the pains of her broken heart, it’s wise to let her set the pace. Make sure that you’re available when she asks for help, but that you don’t smother her or foist unsolicited advice on her every time she comes into the room.
Avoid Using Language That Minimizes Her Experience
As a parent who’s watching a child suffer, your first instinct may be to downplay the importance of the event in hopes that she’ll realize how inconsequential a high-school break up is. Before minimizing her pain and implying that her feelings of grief are exaggerated or melodramatic, think back to your first experience with heartbreak. While you certainly know now that it wasn’t the end of the world, that doesn’t mean it didn’t feel that way at the time. It’s entirely possible to offer reassurance and support without minimizing the experience, and almost always the most effective method.
Don’t Bash The Ex
When someone hurts your child, no matter how old she is, it’s human nature to think less of them. If you weren’t wild about your teen’s partner before the break-up, it’s even easier to resort to bashing and dismissive language. Keep in mind, however, that high school romances have a way of resurfacing. Even if your teenager swears that she’s calling off a relationship for good, there’s a decent chance that reconciliation will bring that ex back into the fold at some point. If you’ve vocally expressed your distaste for her partner or confessed to never caring much for them in the first place, that reunion might be a tense one for everyone involved. Focus on building your child back up and helping her to recover, rather than tearing down the party that you feel is responsible for her pain.
Be Prepared for a Relapse
Teenagers tend to possess fairly mercurial dispositions, so your teen may seem to be over the worst of her mourning and on the road to recovery when a massive relapse forces her back to square one. The best way to deal with such an abrupt loss of progress is to be prepared for it from the beginning. Hope for the best, but realize that the first sighting of an ex with a new flame can be enough to restart a teenage girl’s grieving process altogether.
Offer Distractions, Not a Lecture
You can give your teen an “I told you so” lecture, reminding her of your warnings about getting too close to a teenage partner or shaming her for choices that she made over the course of her relationship, but it will do absolutely no good. In fact, it’s more likely to push her away and make her uncomfortable with the idea of approaching you in the future. After all, who wants to approach someone for help during a painful time when the only help they’ll get is a sound scolding? Even if you have a particular bone to pick with your teen, the days immediately following a breakup might not be the appropriate time to address the situation.
Familiarize Yourself With the Signs of Depression
To you, the end of a high school romance may seem like little more than a blip on the radar. To your teen, however, that break-up is the radar. While it’s certainly not true that every teen who goes through a breakup will feel like it’s the end of the world, some take such things harder than others. Teens that are already prone to depression or who are at risk can begin to suffer from the condition in the aftermath of a particularly messy break-up, so be sure that you’re apprised of the risks and understand how to spot the signs of teenage depression.