Welcome to the next phase of Parenting a Teen in First Love: The Break Up.
Earlier this year, I was nervous delighted when my 18-year-old daughter told me she had found true love. I’d never seen her so happy, so bright. Their relationship went from cute flirting to crazy-in-love within days. His style-cat charm, playful affection and layered friendship gave her a new sense of confidence and self-worth. But secretly, it worried me. I knew the relationship would eventually end. It’s the law of nature, you know? They were a perfect fit at the moment, but they were too outgoing and young to settle down so soon. I didn’t know if it would last two years or a few months. It turned out to be the latter.
Parenting a heartbroken teen, well…sucks. For everyone involved. There is no easy clean up. I liken the aftermath to a huge, tangled up ball of yarn. The more you search for that loose strand in which to straighten everything out, the messier it becomes. I’m here to vouch that you will find the end of the strand. Together you’ll carefully guide it through each knot, twist and loop, no matter how tightly wound it seems.
Here are my 12 tips on helping a teen get through a break-up with a first love.
1. Know what you’re dealing with. First love is different from other love. There are no inhibitions or boundaries. They make plans to conquer the world, together, forever. A new chamber in their heart opens and is filled with Disney songs, glitter and unicorns—unlike anything they have felt before. It’s them against the world. And then…poof! It’s gone.
2. Give your teen space. Don’t take it personally if they don’t want your hugs. I can’t speak for all teens, but in my case, my daughter wanted to be left the hell alone. They’ll probably confide in their friends before you. All you can do is be there when they are ready to emerge from the Cave of Sorrow.
3. Offer support, not lectures. They already are hurting, and likely feeling insecure, and the last thing you want to do is add to that. Don’t ask nosy questions, but make sure you are there for when they are ready to talk. They will want to talk eventually, let it happen naturally. Don’t judge, just listen. Wait until they ask for your input to give advice (trust me, they won’t hear it before that moment). Show them that you are, and will always be, a safe haven for them in times of stress.
4. Help them get back to daily life. No matter how much they’ll fight you, give them things to do to take their mind off of the relationship—like chores, odd jobs, hanging out with family. You will have to make a few alterations. I had to scratch chick flick night off of our list because my daughter couldn’t bear to see happy endings, much less sad ones.
5. Trim the melodrama. For the first week, there will be plenty of moodiness, tears and even anger. Every song they hear will remind them of their lost love. I had no idea how to handle this part. What could I do, ban music from all our lives? No. My husband took control. “No more crying…at least not during the day!” he said to our daughter.
6. Keep them healthy. Too much crying can lead to dehydration, fatigue, loss of appetite and even depression. Get them out of their bedroom. Make them wake up early, drink plenty of fluids, eat three meals a day, and get exercise—even if it is just walking to the mailbox.
7. Don’t diss the ex. Keep the focus positive, and on your child getting stronger, helping them learn and grow. Plus, you never know if that former flame will reappear at some point as a friend.
8. Expect them to change. This was my biggest fear. I worried she’d become jaded and crusty. She did for a bit, but now she channels it through humor, and has even penned several catchy songs a la other scorned songstresses such as Taylor Swift, Fiona Apple and Adele!
9. Help them move on in their own way. My daughter, suddenly with a lot of free time on her hands, made a video called How to Get Over a Break Up. She created it as a way to help other teens, and it ended up being featured on a national television show!
10. Always give them hope. Encourage them to embark on new adventures, meet new people, and take risks. Be a good role model. Surround them with positive examples of love and friendship. Help them focus on school and living a happy life with or without a significant other.
11. Be ready for a relapse. They come and go, but get smaller over time. My daughter still aches inside, but she says it gets easier day-by-day because she’s forgotten what his voice sounds like and even what he looks like. She jokes that their summer romance must have been a figment of her imagination, it seems like a lifetime ago. Even so, she has faith that true love will come again and that she has no regrets from what she went through. In fact, she and her ex are working to someday become friends again.
12. Let out a sigh of relief. All of you made it through, congrats! There will never be “first love” again. It’s over! Your teen has survived the cycle of the best and the worst of love and will hopefully use the memories as a basis of choices to make in future relationships. And you, like me, will be there every step of the way because we love our kids!
Hallelujah cover, by Maya Murillo
She recorded this soon after the break up. It was her tearjerker moment (one of his favorite songs). You can feel the pain and passion in her voice.