Inside this post: Here are five tips to help you get your son or daughter through teen heartbreak.
I remember it like it was yesterday.
The ache in my heart took over as I felt my world crumbling. I was embarrassed thinking everyone could see into my weary heart as I was trying to process why my boyfriend and I were no longer together.
As I sat in my room alone, listening to Bon Jovi love songs, I pondered why we didn’t work out. Why didn’t he like me anymore? Why didn’t he feel the same way I did? Why was I in a standstill and moving in slow motion as he was moving on with life at a rate of fast forward?
Why did he break my heart?
And how did a raspy voice playing on a cassette tape become the balm I needed to heal my wounded heart?
We think we understand the pain associated with a broken heart, but nothing prepares you for when it happens to your teenage daughter or son.
Now, decades later, I feel a twinge in my gut as my own teen now faces heartbreak herself. Her broken heart is now in front of me and stirs up old emotions.
But if I have learned one thing while parenting, it’s this: I can’t rescue my teen.
I can’t remove the feelings stirring up inside them, but I can support them with compassion, some wisdom I’ve found along the way, and a deep level of understanding of my teen’s emotions.
Your teen’s heartbreak is like your own heart breaking in two.
Whether it’s their first love, a crush, or even a close friendship, the end of a relationship can rock your teenager’s world. It can be hard to navigate this difficult time with your teen, particularly if this is their first heartbreak.
The positive is you can be there for your teenager to teach them how to deal with the pain, disappointment, and other emotions that come along for the ride with a broken heart. The trick is to teach your child how to manage their grief without making it worse.
Five Ways to Help Your Teen through Heartbreak
It can be hard to help a teen through a broken heart, but there are a few things every parent can do to help your son or daughter come out stronger on the other side.
Now this one is hard, since all we really want to do as parents, is hear how our kids are feeling so we can make the situation better. But remember, it is not our job to rescue right now. Instead, we need to offer a support system and often this requires stepping aside and waiting until our teen is ready to share.
It’s hard if they aren’t talking or worse, we don’t know what really happened, but we owe it to our teenagers to give them the time to invest in themselves.
It may be spending time alone in their room, going out with friends, or choosing to not talk about the breakup.
The room for space allows them to reflect, move forward, and learn from the heartache. So as difficult as it can be, it’s our job to simply stand off to the side while letting our teen grow from the experience.
If you feel helpless, instead of asking a lot of questions, try to create opportunities for your teen to focus on their mental health. Young people need to be taught self-care, so it’s a good time to encourage them to take some breaks from social media, eat right, exercise, etc.
We are not suggesting that you nag your sad teen into doing these things, but instead, offering them up as suggestions or opportunities for them to take part. For example, pack your teen a special healthy lunch if they normally put their own together, or ask if they will take the dog for a walk even if that’s not their usual responsibility.
The end goal is to get your teen to figure out what makes them feel better, whether that’s endorphins from exercise, a good cry while talking about it, or self-reflection.
Note: If your teenager went through a particularly bad breakup or seems to be questioning their self-worth, be sure to keep an eye out for signs of depression, self-harm, or other related issues. A teen’s first breakup can be especially difficult, but it can also be a great learning experience on how to get through a difficult time, seek out support, and utilize healthy coping mechanisms.
And remember, take all threats of self-harm and teen suicide seriously. If you do not feel you have the expertise, you should contact a trained mental health therapist or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Take their mind off of their teen heartbreak
High school relationships and breakups can be hard because that person is often still around you all the time. It can be hard to move on when you see the person who broke your heart every single day.
Sometimes the best medicine may be a simple car ride to grab some ice cream, a family movie night with their siblings or a quiet walk in the neighborhood.
When one of my teens is struggling and possibly resorting to too much time alone, I will always ask if they would like to join me in some activity. They often decline, but in this scenario sometimes keeping a simple distraction on hand may do the trick to mend their heart in the short-term.
You never know, so just ask. It always feels good to be wanted, even if it’s just by your parents.
Validate your teen’s feelings
This one is a biggie! This is not the time to share how you didn’t like your teen’s boyfriend/ girlfriend and it’s also not the time to share what you thought was wrong in the relationship.
Instead, this is a time to validate and let your teen feel heard. Often validation leads to further communication and a deeper level of trust and understanding. When we validate as parents, our teens pick up on the message we are saying.
Some forms of validation in this situation could be saying,
“I hear you. It is so difficult.”
“I get it and this isn’t something easy to go through.”
“I’m so sorry you are dealing with this, it must be so hard.”
And most importantly ending with, “ I’m here for you supporting you and will try my best to walk through this with you. Just let me know what you need from me.”
To hear words of validation during a tumultuous time is music to their broken heart. So validate and then validate some more.
Be available to let your teen vent
If you are making dinner, stop!
If you are about to run out of the house, slow down and pause!
If your eyes are half-closed as you dream of a good night’s sleep, wake up!
It is imperative to be readily available to offer support and this means taking a pause to stop whatever you are doing to be there for your teenager.
Our teen doesn’t need someone half-listening as we sauté onions, or looking at the clock counting down the minutes until they need to leave, or a parent who doesn’t prop themselves up in bed despite being exhausted.
During this time, they need a parent who is willing to stop and listen at any moment to give them the support they need.
Yes, it may be inconvenient, but we have to keep in mind that their heart is aching and we need to let them take the time to talk through it as little or as long as they need.
So when our teen musters up the strength to vent, just remember, stop whatever you are doing and give them your full atention.
Your teen won’t soon forget that you were the one who was there for them when they needed it most.
Lots of TLC and extra hugs
Who doesn’t need extra TLC when trying to get over a broken heart.
Your teen may be feeling embarrassed and not wanting to face their peers. They may feel disappointed in the way the other person handled the situation or hurt by the entire situation. They may feel like their entire world has ended and have good days and bad days.
This is the time to give your teen a lot of grace and a lot of TLC.
Cook their favorite dinner or run an errand they need to accomplish. Take it easy on the chores. Try to reserve judgment on how they are handling the situation (remember, what we see as something minor can be a really big deal to a teenager.)
And if they’ll take it, there’s nothing better than a hug from mom or dad.
Try to remember what your first broken heart felt like.
Teen heartbreak is a part of their journey, so let’s remind ourselves to support our teenager while they experience this part of life.
And maybe ask Alexa to play some of the old ballads which healed your broken heart while eating a few tubs of ice cream.
You never know, their fragile heart may mend just a bit faster.
“Alexa, play Bon Jovi “I’ll be there for you!”
Ali Flynn is excited to share with you the joys and hardships of motherhood with an open heart, laughter and some tears. Ali’s work has appeared on Her View from Home, Filter Free Parents, Grown and Flown and Today Parents, where she shares inspirational stories about motherhood while keeping it real. You can also find her on facebook and Instagram, at Hang in There, Mama, by Ali Flynn where she keeps motherhood real.