We all remember our teenage years and falling for our first boyfriend or girlfriend. My first significant relationship came when I was a sophomore at Highland Park High School. He was on the soccer team, I was a cheerleader. It was pretty typical stuff, as was the break-up. It hurt like crazy to have the brakes put on a situation that made me feel cared for and important. But I survived.
Watching your child go through that same loss can be equally as heartbreaking. It may be the first time we see our child trying to navigate a challenging, emotional, adult situation. So how can we help?
Child psychiatrists at Mass General Hospital for Children say a teenage break-up can be a big life experience for both boys and girls. It’s frequently the first time they are dealing with ending an important relationship. Boys frequently suffer more that girls, especially if they are “dumped”. That’s because, according to Dr. Ellen Braaten, girls tend to have already felt the sadness of losing a close girlfriend. They may also have read stories or seen movies about love and loss that can help them navigate a break up. Boys are more likely to get into trouble after a relationship ends, as they are reacting to feeling angry, puzzled and hurt.
Psychiatrists recommend that kids take a “technology time out”. Keeping their relationship status out of the public eye can be the best thing for everyone. Remind your child not to bad mouth their ex, and to ask their friends not to either. Staying away from technology can be especially helpful if the ex has left them for someone else. Seeing the other person’s happiness is just salt in the wound.
Another bit of advice: help your teen reconnect with what they love. Have they drifted away from a sport or hobby because of time spent in their relationship? Help them find ways to reconnect with activities and friends they may have lost touch with. Those connections are important so the teen doesn’t feel alienated and alone.
As a parent, its important for us to understand this is not our breakup. It can truly be hard watching your child experience pain. Let your child grieve the loss—it’s real. Experts advise we should take comfort that everyone gets through a break-up, often times coming through stronger than they were before the loss.
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