How to Survive Your Teenager’s First Breakup
“Do you plan on getting up at some point today?” I asked my daughter, sticking my head into her bedroom. No response.
“Well, at some point, do you think that you might at least take a shower?” I added.
Still no response.
“Hello?? Daughter? Are you alive??” I tapped on her door. Over the din of the familiar voices I had come to recognize as Blair and Serena from Gossip Girl, I heard a little groan. Ah, at least she’s alive, I thought.
This was the scene we had been co-starring in together for the past couple of weeks or so since she had broken up with her first serious boyfriend. The early weeks post breakup wasn’t that bad. She seemed to have accepted it for the most part. They had been fighting a lot the prior month and I knew that it was just a matter of time before they officially split up. She hung out with friends and did all of the usual stuff that we all do after a breakup. I felt pretty confident that she was going to get over it just fine.
But suddenly, the winds changed direction and she began to stay in her room more and more – isolating herself from her friends and us, her family. I was beginning to get worried. Maybe I had underplayed her bravado in those first couple of weeks. She is like me; very tough and doesn’t ask for help easily. She seemed depressed– but was it a normal kind of depressed, or should I be worried? I was once a teenager, a billion years ago. I tried to remember my own first breakup and how hard it was. Try as I might, the memories seemed too far out of reach and I was left feeling even more confused than ever.
The problem with being an adult and looking at a teenage problem is that we don’t have that adolescent brain anymore. We have an adult brain, so we rationalize our teenager’s behavior, comparing it to ours… and there is a real danger in that. Our teens are always yelling “You don’t understand me!” Ironically, as much as we would like to think that we do, we just don’t anymore!
I’m not sure why, but as I sat there, the 1980’s movie Endless Love flashed in my mind. It was a poignant film about the complexities of young love and how quickly it could turn dark. “Stop it! I yelled at my myself, as the image of my daughter visiting her ex-boyfriend in a juvenile detention facility jabbed at my brain. I was being ridiculous. I jumped up and shook the thought from my mind.
Feeling frustrated, I wandered into my oldest daughter’s room to get some expert advice.
“I’m worried about your sister,” I confided in a low voice.
“Mom, she’s going to be fine. Stop worrying,” she said with a sigh, “She has to figure this out herself, just like you probably did when you had your first breakup.”
I told her that her sister seemed depressed.
“Of course she’s depressed, they were together for like a year and a half, but she isn’t going to try and kill herself or anything.”
Ok, great talk.
As I was walking past my younger daughter’s bedroom, I could hear her softly crying over the voices from the television. I felt so helpless. The mother in me wanted to go in there and hold her, reassuring her that everything would be ok, but I somehow knew that she would only tell me that she was fine and to leave her alone. This breakup business was a slippery slope and I wasn’t as prepared to deal with it as I thought I might be. Okay, let’s be honest, I was kind of hoping in my mom brain that I would NEVER have to deal with it, but here we were and I felt like I was failing dismally.
I just have to let her work thought his herself, I firmly told myself, and then walked away. Thirty minutes later, when I went to check up on her, I heard her laughing and talking on the phone with a friend about some cute boy. I think we’re going to survive this.
Since then, I’ve amassed many a heartbreak under my belt and here is my best advice for getting through it...together:
Accept the Importance of First Love
While you may thrilled about the break-up, you need to understand and accept the gravity of the situation. Your child has just fully given her heart over to someone. And with that heart, she also handed over complete trust. She made plans….lifelong plans, BIG plans, forever plans. This is the first time in her life that she’s felt loved by someone outside her family. This is her first true romance. So it’s really more than just heartbreak. She has actually had her whole world fall apart.
Step Back But Be Present
The days when your baby would run to you to make it all better are over. Your teen wants to wallow, allow them to. There are stages of grief with every loss and for a while, your teen will just want to be left alone. They will eventually reach out (more likely to a friend before you) and you can be there for them then.
Don’t Judge, Just Listen
The best stance you can take is no stance at all. You need to be there to hear them out, feel their pain, and understand. No amount of bashing the significant other is going to help...just imagine what would happen if they get back together again! Don’t pry. Don’t question. Just listen.
Discuss the School Dynamic
For some teens, the worst part of breaking up isn’t the break-up itself but its aftermath. Concerns over how she or he will be perceived at school are top of mind. Teens will worry about what their ex will be saying behind their back. They’re literally imagining all fingers pointing their way, kids laughing over how him or her being dumped. In some cases, there may actually be backlash and mean jokes sent their way. So be ready to listen to those fears and anxieties as well.
Distraction Is Key
I would be the last person to tell anyone to ignore their pain. But in this case, there really isn’t a solution to the problem at hand. Time will heal. Talking helps. And life needs to go on. So without making light of the situation, help find ways to keep your teen busy and redirect them to other ways to enjoy life.
Keep It All Positive
By that, I do not mean to jump right into a “there are other fish in the sea” mentality. Rather, when your teen isn’t actively trying to communicate his or her feelings, keep everything else light and positive. Play games, hit the stores, get a massage, go for a run, and create opportunities to laugh. Feel-good endorphins are a godsend in recovering from heartbreak. You teen will soon see it’s not all doom and gloom.
How do you help your teen cope with their first break up? Do you like to comfort them or prefer to give them space? Share your thoughts with us.Tags : relationships teens