Helping your teen through a relationship breakup can be a trying, yet rewarding experience. Although painful, a breakup may allow your teen to share thoughts, feelings and experiences she might not usually express. If handled properly and with sensitivity, the situation can bring you and your daughter closer and strengthen your relationship. As a caring parent, knowing what to do and say makes the difference in your daughter feeling supported and loved instead of misunderstood and rejected.
An inexperienced teenager might find it nearly impossible to navigate the myriad of emotions produced by a relationship split on her own. As with most young people, your daughter lives in the moment, without the keen ability to see past her present circumstances. The termination of an important relationship seems like the end of the world to her. Your support helps her process her emotions and put things into proper perspective, allowing her to see her life from a more objective view.
Make yourself available to hold your daughter close without saying a word, which may provide exactly the comfort that she needs. Grieve the relationship loss with her and cry together, which will comfort your daughter in a way that goes beyond words and creates a special trust that strengthens your bond with her. Give her plenty of physical reassurance and let her know that you support her.
Your daughter needs time and space to process her loss before she verbally expresses her feelings. Remain patient and wait for her to talk when she feels ready as this allows her to open up without pressure from you. When she shares her heart, make sure that you are quick to listen and slow to speak.
Active Listening Skills
As a parent, develop active listening skills by listening and responding to what she says. This concentrates the attention on the speaker. As you restate her words, you will better understand what she says and minimize misunderstandings. Active listening demonstrates that you are fully attentive and engaged in the conversation and that what she shares holds meaning and importance.
When listening, do not interrupt to ask questions, give your opinion, offer advice or tell your own stories. Listen patiently until she finishes and wait for an invitation to share. When the opportunity arises, speak the truth in love, honestly conveying your thoughts and personal experiences in a non-judgmental way. Clearly communicate compassion, understanding and hope.
What to Avoid
Your daughter looks to you to be the parent, so make sure you that you respond with maturity. Do not do any of the following:
- Criticize her decisions
- Tell her “I told you so”
- Bad mouth her ex-boyfriend
- Step in to try to remedy the situation or
- Attempt to rescue your daughter out of a great opportunity to grow from her experience and learn valuable life lessons.
Instead, love her, sympathize with her, comfort her and give her the confidence she needs to stand on her own two feet. In the end, watch her emerge stronger and wiser.