Help your teenager through a break up

mother and daughter hugging

We all have to go through break ups at some point. It can be hard to watch your teenager go through the distress and pain of breaking up for the first time. Get some tips on helping with teenage breakups and when to get help if their pain isn’t going away.

Break ups are a part of life

Not every relationship lasts forever, in fact most don’t. It is normal for teenagers to have a number of short-lived relationships as they go through puberty and discover more about their emotions, their needs, and other people’s human imperfections. Teenagers have as much to learn from break ups as they do from having relationships.

Your teenager is likely to be confused and upset. They probably didn’t see this coming, and don’t understand what happened or why. This part of their life that they loved has ended and they will be grieving for that time.

You can help them through this distressing time by supporting them, giving them guidance on what comes next, and showing them how to handle a break up respectfully. You can’t take away their pain, but you can help them develop resilience and understanding.

Tips for helping your teenager through a break up

  • You don’t have to find the right thing to say. There might not even be one. Just be there to listen when they need it.

  • Let them vent. When we talk about what we are feeling, we move things from the emotional to the logical part of our brain, helping us to process. Just letting them talk helps.

  • Encourage them to talk with friends. Getting support and validation from friends strengthens those relationships, and shows your teenager they are not alone.

  • Help them establish a routine. When a break up happens it feels like the rug has been pulled out from under us, and we feel like we have less control. Just having a regular routine helps regain that sense of control.

  • Encourage them to treat themselves. Doing things they like, going to the movies etc. will help them remember that they don’t need someone else to be happy and have a good time.

Ideas worth talking about

You may not be able to say the right thing to make it all better, but you can help them to understand the nature of relationships and break ups.

  • It takes time to heal. It may not feel like the grief or feelings they are going through will go away, but they will in time. There will be good days and bad, and you will be there for them.

  • Being single doesn’t mean being alone. It doesn’t mean being unloved. You have more opportunities to do different things, and meet different people. Friendships are just as valuable as romantic relationships.

  • You can and will feel love like this again. Discuss how you might have had more than one relationship in the past, and how you found that you could feel love again.

  • Break ups don’t have to be angry. You loved this person. While it may feel painful, or like you have been betrayed, we each have the right to choose whether we want to be in a relationship. In time, you may be able to still have this person in your life if you treat them well now.

When to get help

Getting over a break up takes time, and that time is different for everybody. If it has been several weeks and they are still not getting over these feelings, or they have persistent low mood and disengagement with their life and friends, it may be time to get additional help. Talk to your family GP, or encourage your child to have a session with a counsellor.