Being there: coping with teenage heartbreak

Being there: coping with teenage heartbreak

Zelda West-Meads on how to support your child or grandchild through the emotional rollercoaster of first relationships.

Do you remember when your first teenage relationship ended? How you just knew that they were the love of your life and the only one for you? That you would never, ever get over it?

A heartbroken teenager at home

When teenagers break up with their boyfriend or girlfriend, they can often think it is the end of the world – especially if it’s the first time they have had their heart broken.

You can expect anything from floods of tears, tantrums, endlessly moping around in their bedrooms, lots of sighing and staring into space or glued to their phones or perhaps silences or slammed doors and storming out of the house.

It’s very hard for a parent (or grandparent) to see your child so upset and hurt so how do you help your heartbroken teen through this difficult time?

Don’t rush in

The only thing that really heals a broken heart is time, or meeting a new love, so nothing you say is really going to make much of a difference at the beginning.

In the early days, just be a shoulder to cry on, be comforting and show you understand how much they have been hurt and how heartbroken they are feeling.

Look after their physical needs (making sure they’re eating and sleeping) and make them feel loved and cared for.

Tread carefully

Try not to say things like: ‘You will get over it,’ or ‘You will soon meet someone else.’ Firstly, they won't believe you and secondly, at this stage, they probably don’t even want to think about having a new girlfriend or boyfriend.

Time to talk?

Some teenagers may want to talk about what has happened and some may not. Girls are perhaps more likely to want to talk than boys (though that is not always the case.)

Don’t push too hard, just give them the opportunity to talk about how they feel so they can express their unhappiness, hurt or anger.

Is there someone else?

They will find it particularly hard if their girlfriend or boyfriend has left them for someone else, or worse still for one of their own friends. When this happens, they will feel doubly betrayed and will have lost their friend as well.

Keep telling them that the reason this has happened wasn’t anything to do with them – that they are lovely. It’s just what’s going on in the other person’s life.

If your teen is willing to talk to you, hopefully they may gradually come to realise that perhaps the person who broke their heart wasn’t really right for them anyway.

Distraction and the importance of friends

Distraction is essential. At this age, they are probably more likely to talk to their friends than to you, so encourage their other friends to rally round, to take them to the cinema or shopping or a football match – to be there for them.

It’s also a really good idea if you can get your teen to do something different. So try not to let them mope around the house forever. It will help their self-esteem if they can learn a new sport or skill and it will take their mind off their lost love. So if possible, offer to book them and a friend onto a course for the weekend.

Maybe they could try sailing or dry skiing or climbing – something that tests their abilities and where they will have fun.

If you are friends with the parents

This can make a difficult situation even more difficult.

Discreetly talk to them about your heartbroken teenager but don’t let your anger and your own hurt make you heap blame on their child.

It does make socialising as families impossible, at least for a while, but you can still keep in contact and hopefully maintain the friendship.


Do be on the lookout for signs of serious depression as if after several weeks, they still just can’t get out of bed, or can’t stop crying they may need to see their GP. But hopefully, they may start to recover.

As you start to see them taking more interest in other things again, now perhaps is the time to talk about how falling in love is exciting, wonderful and quite lovely but how it also makes you vulnerable.

Remind them that, though they won’t believe it at the moment, given a little time they will meet someone new. Though they may reject it for now and may even be a little angry with you, they are more likely to hear it than they would have done at the beginning.


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