I remember my first heartbreak well. I was 15 and he was my first boyfriend. Even though the extent of our relationship was a couple of group dates, texting and eventually a strange kiss which felt like a bat was trapped in my mouth, when he broke up with me, I was heartbroken. Luckily, I had a great network of friends and family around to support me through that difficult time. So if your teenager is experiencing heartbreak, here’s a list of things you can do to help them get through it.
“When will I start to feel better?”
Your teen will have to grieve in order to move forward. Even though it’s difficult to see them in pain, you must allow your child to feel the hurt and not rush their recovery process. Often your child is grieving the relationship they dreamed about rather than the actual person so it will take them a bit of time to recover.
Tip: Because this is a step your teenager will have take alone, the best thing you can do as parents is to be a shoulder to cry on, someone to talk to, and available to spend time with.
“They won’t respond to any of my messages.”
When heartbroken, it can be impossible to see the bigger picture. Was your child’s 14-year-old boyfriend the love of their life? Probably not. And bombarding their ex with messages trying to get them back definitely won’t help.
Tip: The best thing to do is for you to encourage your child to delete their interactions with said ex. This will stop them looking over the messages fondly and even wondering what they did wrong or could have done better. Your teenager could even block their ex’s number and social media accounts so they are not tempted to message them.
“But I don’t understand. What did I do wrong?”
It can be difficult to get closure when there was no clear reason behind the break up. Maybe your teen’s ex was too busy with sports or maybe they weren’t mature enough? Most likely if they haven’t said, you will never find out.
Tip: If your child never received a reason behind the break up, figure one out together. When you feel the time is right you can also let your child know what a fun, intelligent, talented individual they are and that they will definitely find someone again.
“I will never find someone as fun/ smart/ talented again.”
It can be impossible to move past someone when you are constantly thinking about the good things about them.
Tip: No-one is perfect, so encouraging your teenager to write a list of this person’s not-so-good qualities will help your child stop idealising them and eventually move on. Another good exercise could be for your teenager to write a list of their own strengths so they can remind themselves of what an amazing and unique individual they are and that they are strong enough to move past the pain.
“Is there an easy way for me to feel better?”
Running, walking, swimming, dancing, team sports, anything to get that blood pumping and the adrenaline flowing! Exercise not only improves your teen’s mood by releasing ‘feel good chemicals’ (also known as endorphins), but it also improves their brain function and so may improve your child’s judgement.
Tip: Go on a walk with your teen, take them to the pools or maybe even sign them up for a team sport!
“No thanks, I’d rather stay in bed.”
Heartbreak can have many deep psychological effects such as insomnia, depression, loss of appetite, obsessive thoughts, and decreased immunity. When someone has given so much time and energy to a person, it’s difficult for them to stop thinking about them. Staying at home replaying these interactions over and over and wondering what could have been done differently is the worst thing for your child to do.
Tip: You should encourage them to hang out with their friends, have family days, spend their time doing things they love or even take up a new hobby. This will help them forget about their hurt and get them back into their regular routine.
“How could you possibly understand?”
If your teenager would rather talk to someone closer to their own age, who may have had a more recent experience with heartbreak, there are many call centres with specially trained phone operators. Many of these call centres are open 24/7 and they are a safe, free space for your teenager to talk about anything they want to.
“I think I’m depressed. I don’t know what to do.”
The Pesky gNATs computer game helps to support teenagers using cognitive behavioural therapy intervention. Through completing many quests against negative automatic thoughts, also known as ‘gNATs’, your teenager will learn new skills to feel better, solve problems and enjoy their life in the real world. Sparx is another game designed for teenagers 12-19 years old who are feeling down, depressed or anxious. ReachOut orb is a free interactive experience designed to teach Year 9 and 10 students about mental fitness and wellbeing. Their positive psychology principles teach students to identify and use their strengths, develop and sustain healthy relationships, and become resilient in the face of difficulty.
Even though it is difficult for your teenager now, with your love and support and a little time, the hurt will pass. Your child may have even learnt some valuable lessons about love and loss from their experience. Soon they will be back to their fun, happy, healthy self and sometime, later down the track, they will meet someone new and their heart will beat a little faster again.