One of the toughest parts of parenting I ever had to participate in was when my daughter went through a breakup. It doesn’t matter if you’re 13 or 63, breakups hurt. When you are older you have the experience of years and your self-esteem is formed and not as dependent on being liked or fitting in. For a tween or teen it can be devastating because their feelings for the other person are very deep and their self-esteem is not fully developed. Telling them this will pass and they will have many more loves is not effective because they live very much in the present and their pain is immediate.
I see patients every day who “medicate” in unhealthy ways when getting over a breakup. They use food to comfort themselves, or they drink, or they spend excessive money at the mall. We don’t want our children to model these behaviors, and they won’t if we help them during this fragile time. Here are some tips for parents that I think will help you help your child deal with the emotional pain of breaking up, and they may help you too.
- Begin to journal or write a letter each day to the person you broke up with. Tell them how you are feeling, but don’t send your writings. This helps you get it out of your head and on to paper.
- Begin to exercise. Maybe you can walk or attend a yoga class with your child. Getting out of the house and focusing on something else helps.
- Join a club and learn a new skill. This is a great time for piano lessons, a writing class or learning a foreign language.
- Surround yourself with family and friends as much as possible. This prevents rebounds.
- Focus attention on yourself. Maybe you gave everything to this other person and you lost yourself in the relationship. Host a PJ party or pizza party with friends you may have neglected.
- Buy a pet or adopt an animal. Animals have a way of loving you no matter who you are. They have love for you when you cannot even love yourself. Having to take care of a pet is healing, you have a purpose, you are necessary.
- See a therapist. If your child is seriously depressed or sad for more than two weeks, talking with a therapist will really help.
- Don’t forget your faith. God is always there, and you can pray anytime, anywhere. Praying helps you become more comfortable with the quietness, and meditation can help center you.
If you have a relationship, at some point you will have to learn to let go. Although it is painful, it teaches us more about our own capacity to love, and therefore, is a necessary part of growing up. Parents who understand that breakups are a learning experience and an opportunity to help them grow closer to their children have kids who learn to let go and love again.