Monday, October 10, 2011

How to Help Your Teen Deal With a Break Up

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Romantic breaks ups are tough! They can be an emotional and psychological roller coaster. Moms know this because they have gone through them and now watch their daughters go through similar emotions and behaviours after a break up.

With changing bodies, adjusting hormones, a lack of identity, and competition for social popularity, break ups really do play a big role in a teenage girl’s life. But, moms also understand that time heals everything. And while the break up can seem like the end of the world for her daughter, with time her perspective will become clearer and she’ll realize the relationship wasn’t as great as she thoughts it was.

Getting hurt, however, is a part of dating. As teen girls develop a healthy identity and form a clear picture of what they want, they will date a number of partners. This is normal and healthy. The dating experience is important for personal development, growth, and developing a clear image of what girls are looking for from a lifelong partner.

While moms can’t prevent their daughters’ heartbreaks, they certainly can be a source of comfort. Moms’ presence and kind words go a long way to build her daughters’ self-esteem and confidence that everything will be OK. Moms’ wise words also teach daughters how to deal with disappointment and helps determine the image they form of themselves.

Moms, consider these tips if your daughter is going through a relationship break up:

1. Be supportive. Offer to listen without saying “I told you so.” Sometimes your daughter’s choice of romantic partner’s may not be ideal, but this is not the time to remind her. Be there to offer a hug, a kind word, and an encouraging outlook.

2. Discuss. Ask questions to get the full story. While it may be hard to hear some of the detail, remain non-judgmental and calm. The story may upset you and even break your own heart. Stay relaxed. Be sympathetic but positive.

3. Share a story. Go ahead and reveal some of your own heartbreaks. Tell her about a similar situation and how it made you feel. Tell her what you thought then and what you know now.

4. Distract. Go shopping with your daughter or do her favourite activity. A mother-daughter activity can be more comforting than the words you have to offer.

5. Let her experience grief. It sucks when someone says “oh another one will come along,” “cheer up, he isn’t worth it.” In this moment she is crying for reasons that make sense to her. Let her shed some tears. The emotional release is healthy. Telling her to be strong and not to cry may teach her to bottle up pain. Also, the more you advise her to stop feeling what she feels the less she will be open with you in the future. We like to share our feelings to people who can relate to us and allow us to go through the natural grieving process.

6. Reassure. Let her know she has a lot going for her. This break up is not a reflection of her unworthiness and it is not a reflection of failure. Letting her know she is valuable will keep her grounded and discourage her from running into a rebound relationship (which usually occurs to prove self-worth).

7. Encourage girl time. Encourage her to spend time with her friends. Keeping up with social activities will distract her, get her to realize life still has great things to offer, and give her a reason to smile again.

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

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