Young love can be fickle, and never will you find this to be truer than after your teenager experiences a traumatic romantic breakup. Teens tend to take early relationships seriously, so you might be surprised at the intensity of your adolescent’s feelings if he or she breaks up with a boyfriend or girlfriend after only a few weeks. To your teen, however, the strong feelings and the trauma are real. Here are some tips on how to help your teenager get over a breakup, whether it was a long- or short-term relationship.
Sometimes it’s hard for teenagers to share their feelings freely, and after a breakup is no exception. In fact, it’s possible that you might not even know that your teen broke up with a romantic interest unless you hear it through the grapevine or you notice that the boy- or girlfriend is not coming around anymore.
It’s appropriate to open up the conversation by asking your teen whether they’re still together.
If your adolescent does not want to talk to you about it, try not to take it personally. Some teens will get over a breakup by working through their feelings on their own. On the other hand, if your teen does want to talk about it, let them know that you are there for them. Also, encourage them to talk about their feelings with another trusted adult, such as a guidance counselor, a coach, or an aunt or uncle. While many teens will vent to their friends, those friends are usually also adolescents without a lot of breakup experience and might give poor advice.
Talk About the Impact of Social Media
As much as your teen likely loves social media, it’s important for you to help them put things in perspective when it comes to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and other social networking platforms. There are two main reasons for this:
- The first is that your teen might be tempted to badmouth his or her ex online. This is not only a form of cyberbullying, but it can also create additional problems with friends for both your teen and the other teen. If your child wants or needs to vent, encourage them to do so in a journal that no one else will see.
- The other reason is that it’s easy for a jilted teenager to become a bit obsessed with seeing what his or her former love interest is doing, and continuing to follow them on social media means that they’ll be exposed to who they are hanging out with, what they are doing, and, eventually, who they are dating.
To help your teen get over a breakup, encourage them to cut ties on social media. It can be temporary; if, after six months, the two decide to remain friends and can do so without hurt feelings, they can always rekindle their social media friendships.
Urge Your Teen to Stay Busy
If your child is moping around, it’s important to get them out of the house and busy with things other than ruminating about their lost love. Do be sensitive; it’s fine to let them wallow for a few days. By the time a week or so has passed, however, it’s time to insist that they do something else instead. Urge them to make plans with friends. If they aren’t interested, make family plans. Bringing out a list of chores that need to be done around the house is likely to encourage your teen to make plans quickly.
Your teenager will likely want to begin dating again at some point in the near future. Encourage these activities, but do talk to your child about not getting too close too soon. Let them know about rebound relationships and explain that it’s not fair to the other person to get too attached if they’re still mourning the loss of the first relationship.
Remember That This Is Not Your Breakup
As hard as it is for you to see your teen in pain with a broken heart, it’s important that you let them get through it. You should be there to support them, but this is really your child’s journey to navigate. While it’s fine to encourage them and give them pep talks to help them get over a breakup, you can’t do anything to make the heartache go away. Even if you could, it wouldn’t be the right thing for your teen. Unfortunately, he or she is likely to go through additional breakups over the next decade or two, and they will need to cope with them. As painful as this is, it’s a good learning experience.
Watch for Signs of Trouble
Most of the time, teenagers are able to get over a breakup and get back in the dating scene again within weeks or months. If your teen is still very upset, sad, or angry about a breakup and it’s been more than a few weeks, it’s possible that they need to talk to someone about their feelings. Consider making them an appointment with a counselor, who can help walk them through their feelings of grief.
- loss of appetite
- not wanting to get out of bed
- losing interest in friends and activities
- not keeping up with personal hygiene
If you notice these behaviors in your teen and they last longer than two weeks, contact his or her family doctor. If you suspect that they might be considering suicide and that the danger is imminent, go directly to the emergency room.
It’s never easy to see your teen sad and upset over a breakup, but it’s important to keep it in perspective. Adolescent relationships often don’t last very long, and almost everyone goes through a breakup at some point. By letting your teen know that you will be there for them, you’ll be able to help support your child while allowing them to develop the skills they’ll need when they face a similar situation later in life.
Dr. Nalin is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, and Founder and Executive Director of Paradigm Treatment Centers, who has been a respected leader in the field of adolescent mental health for more than 20 years. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California, his Master’s degree from Loyola Marymount University, his Doctoral degree from Pacific University’s APA approved Clinical Psychology program, and completed his training at the University of California, San Diego’s APA approved psychology internship program.
Dr. Nalin has provided training and mentoring to students entering the field of psychology at institutions of learning including Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology, UCSD, Pacific University, and Santa Monica College. He was also instrumental in the development of the treatment component of Los Angeles County’s first Juvenile Drug Court, which now serves as a national model.
Dr. Nalin has appeared as an expert on shows ranging from CBS News and Larry King, to CNN, The Today Show and MTV. He was also featured in an Anti-Drug Campaign for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).
Dr. Nalin is a Diplomate of the National Institute of Sports Professionals and a Certified Sports Psychologist as well as a Certified Chemical Dependency Intervention Specialist. He lectures and conducts workshops nationally on the issues of teen mental health, substance abuse prevention, and innovative adolescence treatment.
In 2017 Dr. Nalin was awarded The Sigmund Freud Foundation and Sigmund Freud University’s Distinguished Achievement Award in recognition of his work with youth in the field of mental health over the course of his career.