One of the challenges facing parents today is the emotional roller coasters our teens tend to ride. As if figuring out who they are weren’t enough, teens are also figuring out how to manage relationships. When your teenage daughter is in a good romantic relationship, she may be extremely happy and positive. But when there’s a breakup, things can change very quickly and dramatically. Rest assured, however, that these changes don’t necessarily mean she’s deeply troubled.
As a parent, you wish you could simply take your daughter’s pain away. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help her through this emotional time.
Helping Her Through Heartbreak
When your teenage daughter is suffering from a broken heart, it’s difficult for you to see her hurting. Unfortunately, you can’t simply bandage her heart, like you bandaged a cut when she was 4 years old. You cannot simply heal the wound, but you can do some things to help her manage her own pain until she feels better.
It sounds cliche, but at least initially, your daughter may need a listening ear more than anything else. Try to resist the temptation to start handing out advice at this point. Instead, give her the opportunity to vent her feelings, and let her know you’re there for her. Sometimes, there is no “right thing” to say. Simply reflect her feelings back to her, so she knows you understand. Rather than dispensing your own opinion, keep the focus on how learning she is feeling. Let her cry all she needs to. And if she doesn’t want to talk about things right away, give her the space she needs until she is ready. She needs to know your door is open now and always.
The last thing your daughter wants is to be told her feelings are somehow invalid, or that things aren’t as bad as she thinks. Having been there a few times yourself, you understand that “this too shall pass,” but that’s probably not what she wants to hear. To her, that’s likely to feel like you’re minimizing or dismissing her feelings — not a good idea if you want her to talk to you. Even if things seem a little over the top to you, don’t tell her that. Be sure you give validation to whatever she’s feeling.
- Don’t take sides
Even if you weren’t fond of the guy and are relieved to know the relationship is over, don’t say so. Her feelings for him probably haven’t disappeared (yet), so it’s important for you to refrain from outward judgement. In the case that they get back together, you’ll want your daughter to talk to you. If she decides to bash him herself, resist the temptation to join in. Instead, let her know that her anger is a normal part of the process.
- Relate your own experience
After she’s had some time to grieve her own loss, she might be ready for a little perspective from you. Tell her about your own breakups and how you got through them. If you had an experience similar to hers, share it with her. Tell her about the tough things and what you learned from them. Don’t be afraid to laugh where appropriate! If she asks for advice, feel free to give her what she ask for, but know when to stop.
- Get her out of the house
For a few days, your daughter might feel like being alone a lot, and that’s normal. But when she has herself more together, encourage her to resume her normal activities, spend time with her friends, and keep herself busy. Offer to let her have some friends over. If she has a hobby, get her some supplies she can use. Picking her interests back up can prevent wallowing and keep prolonged sadness bay.
- Dispense hope
Be careful about giving your daughter unwanted advice. However, once things have calmed down and she has a little perspective, help her see there is hope for the future. Instead of saying, “I’ve been there and I got over it,” try something like, “I know it still hurts and that’s okay. But remember, it’s not permanent. There are so many great things out there for you.”
Time for Healing
Your daughter’s feelings of heartbreak are normal after a breakup. It always takes time to heal. But if after a few weeks she still seems extremely sad and teary, or continues to withdraw or isolate herself, consider getting her some professional help. In an already troubled teenage girl, a difficult breakup can lead to real depression or otherwise acting out. In these cases, there are multiple sources for help. Fortunately, most teens just need a little time.