8 Tips for Getting Your Teen Through a Broken Heart

8 Tips for Getting Your Teen Through a Broken Heart

Here’s what moms need to know to help their kids through the throes of a first heartbreak.

By: Laurie Sue Brockway

We all dread the idea of seeing our kids go through their first romantic heartache. As one-time teenagers, we remember the agony of young love gone awry. Though we can’t protect them from ever getting hurt, moms can play a big role in helping them through the experience in a healthy way.

“The first breakup can be significant as it may be a teen's first experience with the end of a relationship,” says psychologist Agnes Wainman. “A teen going through a first breakup has no frame of reference to understand that, while the pain is initially intense, it will get better. “

There is a bright side, and moms can eventually help their children see it. “This can be a great experience in terms of experiencing and developing resilience,” Wainman says. “The teen, while initially sad and overwhelmed, learns that they can tolerate heartbreak and may feel a sense of emotional resiliency.”

Here’s what moms need to know to help their kids through the throes of a first heartbreak.

1. Sons and daughter may respond differently. The feelings may be the same, but sometimes girls and boys have different coping strategies. “Boys might not cry or discuss their feelings as much,” says psychologist and dating coach Paulette Sherman, PhD, author of Dating From the Inside Out. “They may appear angry or irritable, instead of sad. They may want to be alone and may say they don't want to talk. Girls may cry or talk to their friends.” That said, she adds, allow your child individual expression without the pressure of gender stereotypes.

2. Don’t minimize the experience. Don’t write it off as simple puppy love. “Never minimize the impact of the loss or the relationship because of the child's youth,” says clinical psychologist Mark E. Sharp, PhD. “In fact, it may be more intense because they have no experience to connect it to.”

3. Validate feelings. Statements like “You’ll be OK” or “You’ll meet someone new” are not helpful, says Wainman. “As with most problems, usually the best thing is listening and empathy,” she says. “Validate her [or his] feelings, and empathize that this is a difficult situation for her [or him].”

4. Be compassionate: Allow teens to go through the grieving process in their own time and find a way to be in the presence of their pain. “They should offer their own support and acceptance, but not work to change the feelings their child is experiencing,” says Sharp. “The tendency is to try to fix their child and heal them so they don't feel so badly anymore.” Rushing robs your child of his or her chance to fully mourn the loss.

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5. Open the door for conversation. Don’t harp on what happened, but don’t avoid it, either. “Make yourself available for conversations she [or he] wants to have with you rather than forcing her [or him] to talk about things, or simply ignoring that she's [or he’s] going through a difficult time,” says Christina Steinorth-Powell, MA, MFT.

6. Share stories, not lectures. Divulging your own trials and tribulations can make you a trustworthy confidante. “For teens, the lack of perspective can make these things feel like the end of the world,” says Allen Wagner, LMFT. Sharing your own experiences, or those of friends, can be helpful. “Teens learn well from actual experiences, as opposed to lectures,” he says.

7. Don’t get in the middle. Fight the urge to go on social media or otherwise make contact with the person who reportedly caused the heartache. “Parents should not call the guy who broke up with their daughter themselves or call his parents,” says Sherman. “When possible, it's good to help your child process it and handle it herself [or himself] so she [or he] feels a sense of efficacy and independence.”

8. Get more help if needed. Healing a broken heart may take a while. Keep an eye out for prolonged grief or depression. While there is no timeline for the grief of the loss of a relationship, if you notice that your child is isolating themselves, not participating in previously enjoyed activities, and her [or his] mood is down and sad consistently for significant period of time, she [he] may be having difficulty coping,” says Wainman. Feelings of loss are quite normal after a breakup, but if your child is having difficulty coping, bring in a professional to help, she suggests.

Who helped you through your first broken heart?

Laurie Sue Brockway is a journalist and author who has written extensively on love, marriage, parenting, well-being, and emotional health. Her work has appeared in hundreds of print and online publications, including Everyday Health and The Huffington Post.

Image ©iStock.com/doble-d

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