The only thing that sounded remotely appealing to this 46-year-old single parent was locking herself in her bedroom and curling up under the covers for the rest of her life.
Yet she had to think about her teenage daughter, Nicole. After all, even though Barbara had recently lost a husband, Nicole had lost a father. And now her 17-year-old was dealing with the pain of her first breakup.
“Honey, you haven’t touched your spaghetti,” Barbara said, then took a bite, just to set an example. “You’ve got to eat, otherwise you’ll get sick.”
Nicole shot an angry look at Barbara. “Too late, Mother,” the 17-year-old snapped. “I’m already sick, sick of all the lousy stuff that’s happening to us.”
The teenager’s words stung. “I know you’re hurting,” Barbara said. “That’s why I really want to hear what’s going on inside – “
Before Barbara could utter another word, Nicole stood up, threw her fork on the table and stormed out of the kitchen.
Barbara slumped back in her chair and pushed her food away. She knew she needed to be a source of strength for Nicole and reach out more than ever. But how?
Later that evening, Barbara tapped on her daughter’s bedroom door. “Nicole, can I come in?”
Barbara pushed open the door. “I just wanted a good-night kiss . . . and maybe a hug.”
Nicole just blinked.
Barbara sat down on the edge of the bed and embraced her daughter.
The dos and don’ts
When a young person like Nicole has experienced the thrill of first love along with the crushing blow of a first breakup, it’s natural for a parent to want to fix things. But exactly how can you promote healing?
While you can’t guard your teen from a broken heart, you can help her move from rejection to connection.
Do take seriously your teen’s emotions. Don’t dismiss a first breakup as a minor experience. The worst thing you can say is, “You’re just a kid, get over it,” or “It was just a dating relationship, not real life.” Understand that your teenage child is dealing with adult-sized emotions. The pain is real, and she needs your sympathy. Also, keep in mind that a child of a single-parent home is already dealing with wounds of loss and rejection. A breakup can cause deep insecurities to surface.
Do give her time to grieve. Don’t expect your teen to bounce back overnight. You’re well aware that “ripped flesh” takes time to heal. Give your teen plenty of space. But on the flip side, don’t allow her to become isolated.
Do offer a listening ear. Don’t be fearful of deep emotion. As your child opens up, it’s probably best not to say much at all. Just be there with her and listen. Encourage your teen to talk. It’s helpful for the grieving person to put feelings into words. At the same time, allow tears.
Do give hugs. Don’t force advice. Share your heart, not your mind. If your teen asks for your opinion or advice, give it. If not, don’t. But remember this: When your teen seeks your advice, don’t feel you have to offer the best wisdom or the perfect Bible verses. A child who has been rejected in a relationship – just as someone who has lost a loved one through death or divorce – has usually heard all the right answers from other caring friends and family. But the heart is where it hurts the most. So intellectual answers really won’t help much or bring comfort.
Michael Ross, a former youth pastor, was a popular youth speaker and editor of Breakaway magazine, a publication for teen guys by Focus on the Family, at the time of publication.
If you liked this article and would like to go deeper, we have some helpful resources below.
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Parents may be reluctant to realize this, but a part of teen development includes adolescents’ interest in exploring romantic relationships. This is healthy for teen development, too, as it provides them with essential experience in which teens learn to manage emotional interactions with others. Through this emotional exploration your teen daughter may experience a breakup, which can be difficult for you to witness. Being there for her and teaching her what you know can help your daughter cope with this challenge.
One of the first things you want to do when trying to help your daughter deal with a breakup is to listen to her, without prejudice, notes Dr. Sue Hubbard, creator of the website, KidsDr.com. Listening without prejudice means not judging her thoughts, complaints and emotional expressions. If your daughter voices that she’s upset because she thought that she and her former partner were going to be together forever, simply allow her to express her emotions without initially offering any advice or rebuttals to her complaints. Being there for your daughter and allowing her to cry on your shoulder after a breakup provides her with much-needed emotional support, and teaches her that she can come to you when this type of support is needed.
Validate Her Emotions
After your daughter has vented a little, show her empathy by validating her emotions regarding her breakup. Validating is a way to help others feel accepted and not judged for what they are experiencing, says director and owner of the Dialectical Behavior Therapy Center in Houston, Texas, Karyn Hall, writing for “Psychology Today.” One way to validate your daughter’s feelings is to normalize your daughter’s experience, notes Hall. You could offer a reflection such as, “I understand why you’re hurt – most people would be hurt by that kind of treatment,” which helps her realize that she’s not alone in her experience, and that someone else understands what she’s going through.
If you find that your teen daughter is in a pessimistic mood and doesn’t believe she will get over her breakup or – even worse – won’t find another suitable partner, encourage her to be more optimistic about her romantic future. Remind your daughter of her beauty, intelligence and worthiness. If the breakup causes your daughter to question her self-worth, encourage her to create a list of her good qualities and strengths to boost her self-esteem. Also remind her that she’s only in high school and has many more dating years ahead of her, along with more opportunities to find a mate. Encourage your daughter to engage in distracting yet uplifting activities to help her take her mind off the breakup. Treat her to a mani/pedi or spa day, or go bowling together to have some fun and teach your daughter how to distract herself in a positive way.
Provide Her with Your Wisdom
As you console your daughter after her relationship breakup, use this opportunity to share your experience and wisdom with her. Tell your daughter about what you experienced during your first breakup, and how you eventually healed from this experience. This not only provides a substantive bonding moment between the two of you, but also enables your daughter to learn effective — and ineffective — ways to cope with breakups in the future. It’s best to offer this information once your daughter has had an opportunity to vent her emotional upset, and is in search of viable solutions.
Young love is beautiful. Do you remember your first real healthy love? It was new, exciting, and felt like nothing in the world could go wrong when you were with that person. Young love, though, does not always last forever.
First, before I move forward, please allow me to share my little experience with love. I am a teenager who has just broken up with her first love and let me say heartbreak sucks. I was so wrapped up in my partner that I was more focused on him than myself. When I separated from my first love, I felt this sense of loneliness. I felt not only alone but as if I had lost a connection with myself. I subconsciously sacrificed being in love with myself for being in love with someone else. I'm going to let you in on a secret of how I overcame that feeling of loss within myself: Self-love. I saw my pain as an opportunity to fall in love with myself again. But I didn't come to this conclusion on my own. I would not have found self-love if it wasn't for encouragement from my family and the people around me.
Now, parents, this is where you come in to help your own teens through a heartbreak. My family's support was the key to me discovering that it was self-love I was lacking. They, in many ways, helped me through this loneliness, and hopefully, my experience will inspire you to come up with ways to support your teens.
Be Available and Supportive
To start, my mother was the driving force for me to explore who I was. She was the little voice out loud telling me to go out into the world, to be strong and independent. She was first the shoulder I cried on then the friend I vented to, and through all my emotions, she continued to give me the love that I needed. Your support as family is essential in helping all of us children through our pain.
- RELATED:How to Give a Strong-Willed Teenager More Independence and Keep Your Cool
Help Validate Our Feelings
My family shared stories of their first loves and made me feel validated in my feelings—they, too, had been in my same shoes. I was told to get comfortable, snuggle up, and get cozy with that heartbreak. That it is okay to be sad, hurt, upset, and you can visit those feelings but do not live in them. Young love is hard because it is easy to lose yourself; I know I did.
I was fortunate enough to have parents who were open to discussing their own experiences with love and felt comfortable hearing about mine, but I understand that not all parents are this way. I think it's so important to listen to your teen, even if things get uncomfortable. When my mother was open about her young love, she made me feel accepted when I was in a vulnerable state. She connected to me on a deeper level, because she at that moment she wasn't just my mother, but she was also my friend. That openness was what I needed in that state. Even if you don't have a personal experience to share, be there to listen, nod along, and offer a hug.
Check-In and Listen
During the first week of my heartbreak I would not shut up about my ex-boyfriend, but the circle of support I had never once made me feel wrong about expressing my inner thoughts. I was allowed to feel comfortable in that pain at first, which lead me to allow myself to let it go. My family distracted me by asking if I wanted to go shopping. When I turned down the offer, they followed up by telling me I could have anything I wanted for dinner. Their persistent check-ins and support are what tipped the scales. My father, who typically does not share his food, offered me his tacos the next morning. This may not seem important to you, but it was to me. It was the little things my parents did that made the difference in making me feel loved during a time when I felt lost.
- RELATED: Depression Is on the Rise in Teens, Especially Among Girls
The Bottom Line
Take your child's heartbreak and use it as a chance to support them. Show that they are beyond loved and will never be truly alone because they have you. Please share your stories and connect with them on a deeper level. Be there for them in big and small ways because even if they do not recognize it at first, trust me, it will make a difference. The little things my parents did helped me through my breakup and hopefully, you will help your teens through theirs.
Arianna Skinner is an 18-year-old Air-Force Military brat. She is entering her second year at San Antonio College in the spring. She is majoring in public relations with a minor in communications and hopes to join a public relations team for a corporate company upon graduation.
When your child’s heart is broken, a mom is there to pick up the pieces.
It’s bound to happen. As kids begin to reach the tween and teenage years, at some point, they will get dumped roughly. There may even be an element of meanness in the breakup that thrashes their hearts. They are left crushed, crying, and broken.
I’m in it, and I won’t lie: it’s tough to watch.
As a boy mom, I’m sharing 14 things to support your son who is roughly dumped by a girlfriend (works vice versa too).
Motherhood is always changing, and as I’ve I witnessed mean breakups, my mama bear horns surfaced in ways I never anticipated. It’s always been a worry of mine that other boys would be mean to my boys, so call me naïve, but I didn’t see the harsh girlfriend dumping coming. I had to brainstorm ideas to help and I’m hoping these tips will help you when you encounter this situation with your own child.
1. “I love you.”
Remind him you are his mom and you love him.It might not make it better at the moment, but in the long run, it will.
2. “You are smart and kind.”
Praise your son for his strengths. Point them out. Include words to describe him like he is creative, smart, intelligent, kind, sweet, and friendly. Focus on building him up to help combat bad feelings of low self-esteem resulting from the dumping. If he says only moms say such things, tell him, that may be correct, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.
3. “I’m here to listen.”
Be there for him if he has tears and wants to talk. If he doesn’t want to talk, check back later to see if he decides he wants to talk in an hour or so. This tactic has worked for me.
4. “Stay away from anyone who plays tricks.”
If, during the discussion, you find out the girlfriend played tricks on him, tell him to stay away. If she did it once, she might do it again, and he is better off without her.
5. “Forgiveness is good.”
However, forgiveness is not permission for emotional or verbal abuse. In the case where she breaks up one day, and wants to get back together the next, be smart and discerning, but don’t be a doormat. Be selective about who to forgive and return to. Remind him he can forgive her without going back to her, and he needs to decide the right choice.
6. “Honesty matters.”
If the girlfriend dumped him and gave him a reason that turned out to be a lie, he should probably not be in a relationship with her anyway. Lies can pile up and if she can’t be honest, this might be her pattern, so it is good the relationship is over.
7. “Communication matters.”
When a girl ends it for an untrue reason, such as a false rumor about him without being willing to listen to his explanations, I say it’s time to let go. It’s hard to accept, and it’s a tough lesson, but it’s an important one. I want to stress for my kids that communication and listening to each other is very important in a healthy relationship.
8. “It isn’t always fair.”
If the girl left him for a reason that is unfair, this is a sign that perhaps she is not mature enough to be in a relationship. He needs to let her go and not try to win her back in this case. If she dumped him for who he is, such as his funny guy personality, or for (tastefully) joking around with friends, she’s not with him for the person he is.
9. “It’s not nice to make fun.”
If the girl ridiculed him in front of others (or on social media) as part of the dumping, that’s not OK. Making fun of someone else is a bully move. He doesn’t need that in his life. Keep searching.
10. “You are worthy.”
Tell him he has worth and confirm for him he deserves someone who will treat him well.
11. “Be patient.”
Tomorrow he might meet someone amazing. Just wait for it. Have patience. He is young; he has many years to find the right girl to have a meaningful relationship with.
12. “Be open.”
Have hope for the potential of a new relationship. He might consider reaching out to that girl he has already seen, but never talked with before. This person could be huge for him. Urge him to start talking to her, to just try it when he is ready.
13. “It’s OK to be alone.”
It’s just fine not to have a girlfriend all the time. It won’t stay that way forever.
14. “The right one will come along.”
Tell him he is special, and the right girl will see that, too.
Breaking up is usually rough for the one who is dumped, but as a mom, I can try to soften the blow for my son by supporting him. I hope to teach him to be smart in his future relationships. I will strive to help him understand that meanness should not be a part of any relationship, even from the cutest girl he has ever met in his life.
And above all, I’m here for him no matter what to help protect and support his sweet heart.
We all have to go through break ups at some point. It can be hard to watch your teenager go through the distress and pain of breaking up for the first time. Get some tips on helping with teenage breakups and when to get help if their pain isn’t going away.
Break ups are a part of life
Not every relationship lasts forever, in fact most don’t. It is normal for teenagers to have a number of short-lived relationships as they go through puberty and discover more about their emotions, their needs, and other people’s human imperfections. Teenagers have as much to learn from break ups as they do from having relationships.
Your teenager is likely to be confused and upset. They probably didn’t see this coming, and don’t understand what happened or why. This part of their life that they loved has ended and they will be grieving for that time.
You can help them through this distressing time by supporting them, giving them guidance on what comes next, and showing them how to handle a break up respectfully. You can’t take away their pain, but you can help them develop resilience and understanding.
Tips for helping your teenager through a break up
- You don’t have to find the right thing to say. There might not even be one. Just be there to listen when they need it.
- Let them vent. When we talk about what we are feeling, we move things from the emotional to the logical part of our brain, helping us to process. Just letting them talk helps.
- Encourage them to talk with friends. Getting support and validation from friends strengthens those relationships, and shows your teenager they are not alone.
- Help them establish a routine. When a break up happens it feels like the rug has been pulled out from under us, and we feel like we have less control. Just having a regular routine helps regain that sense of control.
- Encourage them to treat themselves. Doing things they like, going to the movies etc. will help them remember that they don’t need someone else to be happy and have a good time.
Ideas worth talking about
You may not be able to say the right thing to make it all better, but you can help them to understand the nature of relationships and break ups.
- It takes time to heal. It may not feel like the grief or feelings they are going through will go away, but they will in time. There will be good days and bad, and you will be there for them.
- Being single doesn’t mean being alone. It doesn’t mean being unloved. You have more opportunities to do different things, and meet different people. Friendships are just as valuable as romantic relationships.
- You can and will feel love like this again. Discuss how you might have had more than one relationship in the past, and how you found that you could feel love again.
- Break ups don’t have to be angry. You loved this person. While it may feel painful, or like you have been betrayed, we each have the right to choose whether we want to be in a relationship. In time, you may be able to still have this person in your life if you treat them well now.
When to get help
Getting over a break up takes time, and that time is different for everybody. If it has been several weeks and they are still not getting over these feelings, or they have persistent low mood and disengagement with their life and friends, it may be time to get additional help. Talk to your family GP, or encourage your child to have a session with a counsellor.
Should you cut ties with your child's former flame?
Who gets to keep the exes when your kid breakups with their mate?
For three years, a suburban New York family embraced their son’s postcollege girlfriend. She joined them for Sunday dinners, birthdays, holidays, weddings and funerals. The unspoken expectation was marriage. Then, after several months of turmoil, the couple split. The man’s mom was heartbroken: "I feel like I lost a daughter," she says.
Breaking up is hard — and not just for the young couple. Many parents form bonds with their adult child’s significant other. Perhaps they’ve known them since they were kids, or the couple lived together — almost married — so the partner was part of the family.
And sometimes after a breakup, parents worry their child will never find another seemingly perfect partner, says Susan Newman, an author and social psychologist in New Jersey — "especially if they are looking for grandchildren."
What’s a parent to do? Erase the former partner from memory? Reach out and say goodbye? Tell your child he or she is making a big mistake?
"Parents always need to side with and support their child, even if they think they are nuts for breaking up," says Linda Lewis Griffith, a marriage and family therapist in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Griffith, who counsels young adults in her practice, notes that a breakup can be an intense period of sadness, upheaval and adjustment for the couple. If parents want to vent, they should express their feelings with friends and other family members, not with their kids. "Parents need to allow themselves time to grieve, then adapt and move on to make room for the next relationship," Griffith says.
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While it’s not necessary to unfriend the former love on Facebook, she says, don’t actively engage with him or her. Continued contact leaves both parent and child in an emotional limbo. If it feels impossible to have no contact at all with the ex, Griffith suggests sending a card with a simple message of best wishes.
And if a card seems too cold, Newman offers the following advice:
- Consult your child. Ask how your son or daughter feels about you continuing the relationship. Explain the difficulty of severing a longtime emotional connection. "Some adult children couldn’t care less," Newman says, while others will be upset, "feeling parents have abandoned them."
- Give it some time. If your adult child reacts negatively, you might wait a month or two until emotions are not so raw. Then ask again about reaching out. But don’t push it.
- Call the ex. If your child doesn’t mind, call to express your sadness, how much you will miss the ex and the hope that your paths will cross again.
Finally, whatever you do, don’t get caught in the middle, Griffith says. If the ex calls and wants you to advocate for him or her with your child, don’t. The fallout can get messy.
Mary W. Quigley, a journalist and author, has written two books about motherhood and work. A New York University journalism professor, she is the mother of three adult children and blogs at Mothering21.com.
Our first love can be a highly emotional experience and the same goes for first heartbreak. It’s never easy to see your child hurting, but you can ease their struggle by remaining open and available to listen.
The first time humans experience anything, emotions and memories associated with that event are more significant than emotions and memories of experiences that follow. The first time your child rides a bike, visits a new place, or goes through a breakup, those memories take on a heightened status. The nature of first heartbreak means your child hasn’t ever gone through this – they haven’t experienced feeling better with time and caring about someone new, so it can be hard for them to imagine things getting better. Also, kids compare themselves to others and care a lot about what others think, so rejection can feel magnified by knowing that their heartbreak is “public knowledge.”
It’s always hard to see your child in pain, and it is especially tough when you watch them go through new kinds of hurt, like their first heartbreak. Remember, this is a new experience for them and for you. Your child’s heartbreak might bring up unpleasant or painful memories from your past. If that happens, acknowledge it, and process your feelings with a trusted friend, not with your child. Another reason why a child’s first heartbreak may be difficult for parents is today’s kids may be starting relationships at younger ages than you did, so you may not feel prepared to have these conversations when you need to have them. The good news is you can still be supportive even if you feel caught off guard.
- Listen, listen, listen. Let them talk as much as they want. Don’t feel like you need to respond or offer advice.
- Validate their emotions. Let them know you hear how they are feeling and how difficult it is, and that what they are feeling is normal.
- Help them stay connected. Make sure they stay in touch with other caring people in their lives: friends, teammates and family members who can give them support.
- Encourage healthy social media habits.Talk about the benefits of avoiding or limiting social media for a while after the breakup or at least limiting interactions with the former significant other. Remind them about the drawbacks of posting in highly emotional times.
- Help them maintain a routine. Support their mental health by keeping regular sleep and activity schedules, eating regularly and staying involved.
- Help them get their emotions out of their bodies. Encourage journaling, talking, dancing, singing, physical movement or even writing a letter they don’t send.
- After they’re feeling a little better, offer fun activities. Experiences that remind them who they are and what they enjoy can build self-esteem.
- Rely on your own support system. They will help you work through emotions that come up rather than process your emotions with your child.
- Later on, talk about what they learned from the relationship. What were some good things and some not-so-good things about the relationship? Ask open-ended questions that invite them to share as much as they want to share.
- Model healthy relationships. Let your child observe you maintaining healthy boundaries, expressing your needs and showing mutual respect, whether it be in romantic relationships, friendships or family relationships.
- Remember, you don’t know exactly how they feel. Everyone is unique and your child is the expert on their experience, so try not to assume.
- Avoid relating. It may be tempting to share your own stories of heartbreak, but it’s rarely helpful.
- Offer advice only if they ask for it.
- Try to not minimize their feelings. What they feel is real and dismissing their feelings won’t make them go away.
- Don’t make promises you can’t keep. If you think there’s any chance you could get upset about something they tell you, avoiding promising you won’t get upset.
- If their extreme sadness lasts more than two weeks, they might be experiencing something more than heartbreak. Talk with a professional about your child’s emotional well-being.
- If they feel hopeless about themselves or about life in general, it is probably time to seek professional help. A mental health professional (counselor, psychologist) can help.
- If they have a previous history of depression, anxiety or self-harm, you’ll want to keep a close eye on their moods, behaviors, etc. These may put them at higher risk of difficulty coping with heartbreak or other difficult events.
- If other parts of their life are being negatively affected, it might be time to talk to a professional. If they are avoiding time with friends, missing school or not enjoying activities they usually enjoy, that could be a sign they need more support.
- Any time you can open the door of communication with your child, they will be more likely to come to you when they’re struggling.
- Even if they don’t take you up on the offer right away, they’ll know they can come to you in the future.
- Listening and validating your child’s experience will teach them that they can trust you in tough times.
It may not feel like it, but heartbreak can be a good thing. It means your child is learning things about themselves and what they want in a future partner. When in doubt, just being there to listen to them and remind them they are loved is one of the best ways you can show your child love.
“Mama, play with me.” I heard my three year old plead with me distantly, as if through thick glass. Irritation was rising in her voice, her toddler brain scouring for what was wrong with Mama.
I sat next to her on the playroom rug. You are the parent, I thought numbly. Do your job.
But I couldn’t. I was distracted and elsewhere. I’d had my heart broken days earlier by someone I loved, and I was still reeling from the shock of it, my mind pickaxing trails of why, how, what-did-I-miss? I picked up a wooden block and offered it to her. She took it, her body relaxing with relief.
It was my first time confronting this kind of grief as a parent. An ended relationship was hardly a death, but the experience was a window into the ways sorrow can short-circuit our ability to parent.
Grieving a relationship is an imperious state, demanding we submit mind, heart and body. Parenting, meanwhile, is nothing if not an endless stream of selflessness. How do we indulge the self-focus grief requires while performing the most selfless job a person can do? And how should we?
Painful breakups can have profound effects on the body and mind. In a 2010 study, scientists studying “rejected individuals” found activity in regions of the brain related to physical pain and cocaine addiction. The researchers concluded romantic heartbreak can trigger clinical depression, addictive behaviors and even suicide as a result.
Sadness, irritability, fatigue, and distractedness are among the most common side effects of grief while parenting. Dr. Chris Overtree, a child and family psychologist, says parents are generally inclined to pretend everything is fine. But kids are way more hip to our feelings than we think.
“When we try to hide our grief, we’re not that successful at doing it,” he said, “and it usually comes out in other ways.”
Children, meanwhile, tend to pick up on subtle shifts in parents’ behavior. Kids are developmentally self-centered by nature, and tend to overestimate their power to control the world around them. If parents don’t tell kids why they’re upset, Overtree said, kids may blame themselves, believing they are the cause of the problem.
Parents are teachers as much as caregivers, and our children learn to navigate life’s challenges by watching us. Kids can get a road map for how to handle painful emotions. “What they see is their most meaningful role model going through something hard and overwhelming, and learning that it’s okay to not know what to do,” Overtree said. “It’s okay to be devastated and it’s a normal part of life to take these challenges and get help from someone else.” And, when kids witness a parent grieving, they have an opportunity to practice empathy with a loved one in pain. They learn that our feelings change throughout life, but don’t define us.
If parents shield their children from real feelings, kids falsely imagine their parents are in constant control of themselves – and may try to emulate them. “If you never see your parents struggling with real world things, you don’t get a model for how to do that yourself,” Overtree said.
So how do we share our sadness with children without burdening them?
Say it in child-friendly language. How do we explain big problems to small people? Keep a child’s age in mind and explain the situation in terms they can understand.
When talking with kids about divorce, said psychotherapist Julie Mencher
If the break-up is with a non-parent who the child was attached to but may not see again, it’s key to make room for the child’s grief, too. “It’s really sad that we’re not going to be able to see so-and-so anymore, and I know that’s hard for you, too,” Mencher suggests saying. “The child will have her own reaction to that, including blaming a parent for a loss that was out of their control to begin with.”
Manage how and when you share your feelings. It’s not just how we say it, but how much we share that must be scaled according to the child’s age. “Keep it simple, choose how much you share on a need to know basis, and be watchful for signs of overwhelm in your child,” Mencher said. “Several short conversations might be more digestible than one dramatic sit-down.”
Stay in control. Parents should send kids the message that they are hurting but still able to take care of themselves and continue being capable parents. If you feel too distraught, wait until you are more composed. “I’m sure I’ll feel better when I’m done crying,” is both instructive and reassuring.
The good news is that kids are remarkably resilient, as anyone who’s seen a kid bang into something and dust themselves off with barely a peep can attest. Most children move through a world full of distractions, and many learn to compartmentalize effectively. This can serve them – and us – well.
“Mama, are you sad?” my daughter asked me.
I paused, trying to decide. “Yes, mama is sad,” I finally said. I watched her face carefully.
“Do you remember J.?” I asked my daughter. She did.
“She wasn’t kind to mama. She was my friend and she hurt me.” My daughter’s face contorted slightly.
“And that made you feel sad?” she asked.
“Can we play blocks?” And just like that, she had moved on. The young mind reset with unselfconscious, enviable ease. I took a deep breath, and we went back to building our castle.
Rachel Simmons is the author of “Odd Girl Out” and “The Curse of the Good Girl.” She is co-founder of Girls Leadership and develops leadership programs for Smith College. Follow her on Twitter @racheljsimmons.
My daughter recently broke up with her boyfriend. After 8 months, she just felt like it was too much for her and needed a break. They are still friends. It’s been about two weeks. Her dad and I are devastated. This boy is wonderful and we (secretly) hoped it would be a forever thing. We find that now we need help moving on after the breakup.
Also, her ex-boyfriend is now dating his ex-girlfriend. My daughter certainly understands he can date anyone he chooses, but she is upset that he is plastering it all over social media.
How do I put her at ease with this? It bothers her that this is happening so soon after the break up. Additionally, for myself and my husband, how do we put our own selfish wants of them staying together aside?
EXPERT | Amy Speidel
Coping With a Breakup. Help!
Your daughter is facing that passage of life (as irritating as that phrase may be) that most of us pass through. How wise of her to sense that the relationship she was forging may have felt like too much too soon. Pulling back may have also been her way of leaving open more opportunity to experience and explore what the world of relationships is all about. Breaking up and having the other person turn away is part of that. It is the consequence of walking away – it tends to create an equal response on the other side.
Your role is a tough one, standing to the side as she deals with coping with a breakup. And that doesn’t mean you’re a passive bystander, just that you’re not there to fix it or critique it. She just needs some support to steady herself through this new territory. She can make up any story that she’d like, and your job is to be curious about the story. Is he just trying to get back at her? Perhaps. Did he not really care in the first place? Could be. Or perhaps, after being rejected (and on a basic level, that is what happened) perhaps his best move, considering he’s also on a journey of discovery, was to reassure himself that, although it didn’t work out with your daughter, there is still hope for him. Perhaps that’s why he’s moving on after a break up so quickly.
As for your feeling that this could have been a great and lasting match, trust your daughter. She chose someone that has the kind of qualities you value. She’s likely to do that again, and again, until she’s truly ready to be ready for a more permanent step. She’ll get there. Until then, there’s a lot of adventure along the way! Enjoy the ride!
Amy Speidel is a Certified Parent Coach at Senders Parenting Center and an instructor in the Conscious Discipline Philosophy for parents and teachers.
You’re arguing constantly and rarely talk anymore. You’re not sure when things started drifting, but your relationship has definitely changed. Thankfully, you can still repair the relationship! These 7 tips will help you learn how to mend a broken relationship with your son or daughter, even if it seems impossible.
I know it’s bad, but I don’t even want to spend time with my child.
He’s so demanding and high-energy.
All we do is argue.
He never listens. It seems like he won’t do anything unless I yell.
Life has just been so hard lately.
I think back to when he was little, we used to take walks and explore nature. He would give me the biggest hugs.
What happened? When did we drift so far apart?
How can I repair this relationship?
Disrepair happens slowly. You may not even notice that it’s happening at the time.
Then, one day, you realize how far you’ve drifted from one another.
It can feel shocking, sad, frustrating, or lonely.
But, you don’t have to stay stuck in a distant relationship. There are things you can do to repair a relationship with your child, even if it feels like an impossible task.
Here are a few tips to get you started.
How to mend a broken relationship with your son or daughter.
- Acknowledge the rift: In a calm moment, let your child know what you’ve observed and how you feel about it. Your child’s response may vary. They may agree, disagree, be indifferent, angry or annoyed. Whatever their response, keep the focus on your own thoughts and feelings, rather than forcing them to agree or feel the same. “I realize things have been a little tense between us. That makes me sad, I want to work on easing that tension.”
- Make Amends: Rather than focusing on your child’s behavior or actions, take responsibility for your part in the disrepair. Have you been busy, impatient, frustrated, controlling, etc? Apologize and work on making it right with your child. Keep it simple, and avoid adding”…but, you should…” to the end. “I’m sorry that I’ve been distracted after school lately, I’m going to put my phone away, so I can focus on listening better.”
- Engage in an activity together: Rather than allowing the distance to continue, work to find something to do that gives you a chance to be together. It may be a board game, shooting baskets, taking a walk or even playing a video game. Sometimes, it’s best to just be together in silence, rather than forcing your child to talk. If your child is resistant, keep the door open and continue to look for opportunities to spend time together.
- Do something different: Replace negative communication patterns with something helpful or positive. That may mean taking a deep breath before responding to your child, focusing on listening rather than giving advice or working on being empathetic (even if you don’t necessarily agree). It may take time for this new behavior to become a habit. In the meantime, give yourself permission to be a “work in progress.”
- Be patient: One of the most challenging aspects of repairing a relationship is not being in control of the other person. When working on a repair, don’t force it. Somedays it may seem that your efforts are not making a difference. Your child may be skeptical of your intentions or wondering if you will be consistent. Above all, your child wants to know that you love and value them and the relationship. Your hard work is not for nothing, but it may take time to see the results.
- Get professional help: If the relationship is damaged due to abuse, neglect, addiction or mental health concerns, or if it’s just not getting any better, it’s best to seek the help of a mental health professional. Therapists can help you and your child navigate the choppy waters of building trust, learning new skills and engaging in healthy patterns. It’s not a sign of weakness to seek mental health support, it’s a sign that you realize the importance of your relationship and value it enough to get help.
- Make space for grief: Waiting can be exhausting. And for some parents, despite numerous efforts and attempts at repair, the distance remains. Allow yourself time to grieve the loss or change of the relationship. Feeling sad or discouraged doesn’t mean you’ve given up hope for reconciliation. Find support from other adults who are willing to listen, encourage, and even cry with you, during this difficult time.
Look for the good.
Mending a damaged relationship can be “one step forward, two steps back.”
Just when you think you’re back on track, something happens, and there’s distance again.
Instead of waiting for perfection, look for the good.
- Notice when your child hangs around a little more than usual.
- Smile when he walks into the room.
- Celebrate when you make it through a transition without an argument.
Find something positive every day.
Then, look for 3 good things.
Slowly, you’ll notice a shift in your thinking. Rather than trying to avoid him, you may start to enjoy him again.
And just when you thought the days of nature walks and hugs were over…
Your child may surprise you.
How can I help?
If repair sounds like a great idea but you have no idea how to put it into place with your child, let’s talk! We can explore what’s going on in your relationship and brainstorm ways to make things better. Learn more about Parent Coaching.
About Nicole Schwarz
Welcome! I am an imperfect mom to 3 girls and a Parent Coach with a License in Family Therapy. My goal is to help you feel less angry, manage anxiety, talk to your kids with empathy, and learn to discipline without punishment. If you are frustrated, stuck or unsure how to make changes in your parenting, I provide online Parent Coaching sessions in the US and internationally.
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Imperfect Families Mission
To authentically connect parents to themselves and their families for a healthier home.
Meet Nicole Schwarz
Founder of Imperfect Families, Imperfect mom to 3 girls and a Parent Coach with a License in Family Therapy.
Author of “It Starts With You.”