Break-ups are inevitable for teen relationships. It’s one reason I advocate kids shouldn’t date someone they wouldn’t consider marrying. Realistically, high school romances will either end up in life-long committed relationship, or an eventual break up. There are no other options.
1. Equip your teen to respond appropriately. No matter how the relationship ends, your teen will experience a variety of emotions. Anger, sadness, depression, bitterness, jealousy–these emotions can turn ugly if not put in the right context. Help your child process his or her emotions with healthy, appropriate responses.
2. Put things in perspective for them. Teens usually live in the here-and-now. It’s hard for them to see beyond the current situation. Give them perspective about high school relationships, acknowledging that most don’t last beyond high school or college. Help them focus on non-relationship goals; sports, activities, work, or other interests. Talk about their future beyond high school. Let them know there’s life outside of their ex.
3. Validate their grief. Your child is losing a significant relationship in their life. Grief is normal. Boyfriends/girlfriends provide companionship, acceptance, and love. Your teen will miss either the person, or the relationship, after the break up. Be sensitive to your teen’s grief. Talk with them. Let them know their feelings are normal.
4. Process unhealthy patterns in the relationship. Relationships end for a variety of reasons–jealousy, possessiveness, unfaithfulness, abuse, incompatibility, or lack of interest. If the relationship was unhealthy, talk about those aspects with your teen (without saying, “I told you so”). Help your child see the long-term effects of an unhealthy relationship. Even if the relationship ended amicably, process the decision. Use this conversation as a teaching tool on healthy, life-time relationships. If the relationship was abusive, equip your teen to be empowered instead of being a victim. Seek professional services, if needed, when there’s been abuse.
5. Help them move forward. As a parent, you also might find yourself grieving the loss of the relationship with the person your child was dating. It’s tempting to hope the couple will get back together. Like adult relationships, it’s best to move forward instead of living in the past. Make sure both you and your child move forward from the break up.
I’ve seen most high school relationships end during my tenure as a public school professional. Teaching your teen about healthy relationships through breakups equips them when the right person comes their way.
How can you help your teen through their current or past break up?