An inevitable part of relationships is the occasional heartache along the way. There are lots of ways you can support your teen through a breakup.
While it’s hard, this is an important part of growing up. It helps them learn how relationships work. But that doesn’t make them easier for parents to deal with!
Maybe this breakup had been coming for a while, or perhaps it was a complete shock to them. They might be the one who finished the relationship or desperate for it to continue. Whatever the reason, they’re likely to feel upset and confused.
As a parent, it can be hard when you can’t just make everything better. You might feel frustrated or powerless watching your child in pain and not able to offer a solution. So what can you do to support them after a relationship breaks down?
1: Listen to them
It’s hard to listen properly. We often jump in with helpful suggestions or try to tell our children what to do. What they really need is for us to listen.
After they’ve split up, they may need to vent their feelings of upset and anger. It gives them time to process how they’re feeling. Just listening doesn’t sound like much, but it shows your child you’re there for them and you care.
2: Say the right things
You know this breakup isn’t the end of the world, but these emotions are powerful.
Avoid minimising how your child is feeling. Phrases like, “You’ll soon get over it,” or “You’ll find someone new,” tell your child their feelings aren’t important. Support your teen through a breakup by empathising and validating them. You can say, “Yes, it does really hurt,” so they see you understand how they feel.
Telling them you hated their ex or knew this would happen all along doesn’t help. They loved this person and thought it would work with them. And, you never know, they could get back together again in the future.
3: Let them handle it
Don’t get involved in the breakup. Your teen is unlikely to thank you if you do. Let them sort it out between themselves, even if you feel annoyed or angry with what’s happened. They don’t need you to fix things for them.
What they need is comfort, support, and your trust that they will handle it. If you do feel your child is at risk, seek immediate professional help rather than trying to sort it out yourself.
4: Help them be healthy
It’s fine for your teenager to wallow over a big bowl of ice cream, or not feel very hungry for a few days straight after a break up, but it’s important for them to get back to their usual healthy routine as quickly as possible.
Support your teen through a breakup by gently encouraging these healthy habits:
- Get outside for walks or just spend time in the fresh air
- Cook their favourite healthy meals to tempt their appetite
- Encourage them to continue their favourite hobbies and activities
- Suggest they talk to friends and spend time with the people who care about them
Keep them following their school routines. Even homework can be a good distraction from how they’re feeling. Help them see the importance of staying on track with their learning.
5: Boost self-esteem
Young people may feel they are somehow to blame for what’s happened. It’s a good time to give them a boost by reminding them of all the things they’re great at. You can tell them that relationships do sometimes break down and it isn’t because of you as a person.
Most young people will quickly bounce back after a break up, although they may feel upset about it for a much longer time.
If your child still seems very down after a few weeks and you’re worried about them, seek professional help from your GP or visit the NHS website for advice.
Our free Support Talk video series is full of useful advice and information about helping your older child with every aspect of relationships — from setting boundaries to teaching them about what a healthy relationship looks like.