You may be a parent now, but once upon a time, you were a teenager and chances are you went through a breakup that made you feel like you would never, ever love again... And then you grew up and you realised that the world didn't end and although your first-love breakup sucked, you made it through and it made you a better person (or, at least, something like it).
Now, imagine being the parent of a teenager going through the same thing and having to navigate that same landscape with the benefit of hindsight, all whilst knowing that teenage-you wouldn't listen to future you either.
Breakups are a part of life, and they happen to the best of us. In this article, we'll talk about how to help your teenager get through a breakup without breaking down in tears or turning into an angry monster.
1. Start by asking your teenager how they are feeling
Although they may not be willing to talk about it, chances are that any break up has hurt them more than they'd care to admit.
When you ask your teenager how their breakup went , don't pressure them into talking if they aren't ready. Asking something along the lines of "Are you okay?" will let them know that you're there for them and can help calm some fears before things get too intense.
If your child wants to keep the details private, respect that; this is a time for comfort, not interrogation.
If your teen decides he or she does want to discuss what happened in detail then use open-ended questions like 'what' and 'how'. Try asking "How it go when XXX broke up with you?" instead of "Did XXX break up with you?", this will help your teen to open up and share their feelings.
2. Be there for them
Whether that means you give them a hug, let them know it's okay to be angry or just letting your teenager chill on the couch with Netflix for an afternoon, there are countless ways in which you can show support.
There is no set way of doing this because every teen and their circumstances will vary so take note of how they want to spend time together and try not to push if they don't seem up for socialising.
After all, sometimes what we need most after a bad breakup isn't another person telling us everything would have been better had we stayed in our relationship but rather someone who understands why staying was impossible.
This also doesn't mean that teens shouldn't go out into public at all - some might even find comfort in being surrounded by people who don't know what they're going through.
Just take note of how your teen is feeling and try to meet them halfway, that's all you can really do in this situation.
The benefit of explaining that life will go on even if the relationship didn't work out may be small but there are other benefits too; it can help teens learn healthy coping strategies for future heartbreak while also giving parents a chance to teach their children about relationships so when the time comes, they'll have an easier time navigating theirs independently.
If anything else though, just let your child know that you love them unconditionally because sometimes being told "I'm here no matter what" means more than any word ever could.
3. Listen to what they have to say, but don't judge
Listening is perhaps the most important thing you can do when your teen wants to talk about their breakup.
Your child may have had some experience with relationships before or they might just be starting out - either way, it doesn't matter because at this point all that matters is what's going on in their head right now.
This means that anything you say should come from a place of sympathy and understanding rather than judgement.
If there are things that seem particularly unfair then try pointing them out without being confrontational; for example "It sounds like he broke up with you after months of ignoring your texts which must feel pretty awful" instead of "You would never treat someone so badly."
Remember though, it's not always easy to see past our own feelings and try to look at things from another person's perspective. Breaking up with someone is never easy but it can be particularly difficult for teens who might not have as much life experience or confidence in themselves yet.
If your child wants you to jump on the bandwagon then let them know that although you're there for their problems, this isn't about what they think of the other party - letting go of a toxic relationship has nothing to do with how wonderful either of those involved are so if anything it should help take some pressure off.
4. Encourage them to do things that make them happy
This is different for everyone but it's important to remember that even though your teen might feel like they could never be happy again, there are probably lots of things you didn't know about them.
Encourage these activities by either joining in or suggesting new ones; playing with a dog can make us instantly happier while baking something delicious together will give both parties an opportunity to talk and bond over their memories from when times were better.
If all else fails, make sure they always have access to Netflix because sometimes the best thing we can do when our heart feels broken is not think at all.
It may seem strange that spending time on hobbies rather than dwelling on how upset we are makes us happier but then again, most of life is made up of things we can't necessarily explain.
The goal here is to help teens realise that while life doesn't always work out the way they want it to, there are still plenty of other opportunities for happiness throughout their lives - especially in moments when everything else seems impossible or bleak.
What this boils down to then is simple; if your child wants you by their side through every second of heartbreak, let them know you'll be there because sometimes love means putting aside our own feelings and doing what's best for someone who needs us most .
5. Don't force your opinion on the situation - just be there for support
The emotional impact of a breakup can be particularly difficult for any parent to deal with, let alone teenagers who haven't been in this type of situation before .
This is why it's important that you help them by being there when they're ready to talk but never forcing your opinion on the situation because while we might have wisdom and experience, every relationship is different.
That said though, if something seems blatantly wrong then try pointing it out without making it about how much better you think things could have been; "It might not feel like it now, but sometimes people grow apart" instead of "I don't know how he could do this."
In short; just remind your teen that life isn't always fair so try not to dwell on the unfairness because there are things that could be far worse .
It's important to remember though, that even if you don't agree with how your teen is feeling this doesn't mean they're wrong or making a mistake; it just means their feelings aren't exactly like yours so try not to tell them what they should do instead.
If all else fails, remind them of everything they still have in life and encourage positive thinking by pointing out moments when bad things happen but turn into something good later on - for example getting dumped might seem horrible now but once you've found someone new who actually appreciates you then maybe, these memories won't sting as much .
This one isn't always easy though since breakups affect us differently depending on who we are so if you're struggling to connect with your teen then try looking for common ground; maybe they like the same band or type of food as you and this will help strengthen your bond.
At the end of the day though, no matter how much we want to fix things all by ourselves it's okay to need a helping hand sometimes - after all, that's what family is for.
6. Offer advice if asked, but don't push it
In the end, breakups are a part of life and while you can't stop them from happening, there are some things that parents still have to offer even if it isn't always welcome.
The most important thing is simply being available for support because when someone breaks up with us we often feel alone in an impossibly large world - especially since many of our friends might not know what's going on or how to help .
This means that sometimes just having a safe space where they can vent about their feelings without judgement will be enough.
This doesn't mean you should keep thoughts like "you could do so much better" to yourself but rather ask questions instead; get your teen talking by asking them what led up to the breakup and what they think went wrong.
If you can't relate then that's fine too because there are some things only the teen will understand but it doesn't mean your input is useless; if nothing else, any words of wisdom or advice offered at this point might make them feel like someone out here understands what they're going through even when their friends don't .
Just remember though: give your child space to figure things out themselves and never force opinions on them just because it seems logical to you - after all breakups are an intensely personal thing so while you might not agree with how your teen feels about something, forcing yourself into their life won't help anyone .
These are just a few of the many things that you can do to help your teenager. The best way for them to get through this tough time is with support and understanding from their parents, not judgment or criticism.
Remember, they're going through something difficult at such an important part in life where so much changes and there's so much uncertainty ahead. They will need all the love and nurturing they can get right now more than ever before.
Breakups are a part of life and while you can't stop them from happening, there are some things that parents still have to offer even if it isn't always welcome.
The most important thing is simply being available for support because when someone breaks up with us we often feel alone in an impossibly large world - especially since many of our friends might not know what's going on or how to help.