Love is a funny thing and many parents can agree that teenage love is even funnier. While we can remember our first loves and breakups, when it comes to our own kids we tend to be extra sad for them when they have been broken hearted in a break up. The tears can fill a bathtub and their emotional outbreaks are roller coaster rides. There is some things however that are so important to remember when you have to navigate a break up of your son or daughter and how your actions can teach them many lessons later in life in how to be a responsible adult.
True story, My 16 year old son’s girl friend just broke up with him two weeks ago. Even though I have raised four children before him, he is my youngest and my most emotional. I have cried so hard myself watching him fall apart. This of course was his first love but not hers. So it made it extra hard to see how much he attached to her not only as a girl friend but as a best friend for the past six months.
But what they don’t tell us in magazines and books or teach us in parenting 101 is how to cope with the loss you feel when you have invested your love and energy into your son or daughter’s girl friend or boyfriend and how you are affected as a parent when someone that brought joy to your life is suddenly gone. This goes also for divorces and also for adult breakups where families get attached.
This has been a hard one for me this week, but I have learned a lot of lessons and I allowed God to use me in navigating the both of them to put self aside and consider the feelings of the others and of everyone else. A breakup is not just between two people. It affects everyone. Even as teenagers I feel it’s important for them to learn to talk things out. Closure cannot come unless each one knows exactly what the other one was thinking. You may be surprised to find that what each thought was wrong had nothing to do with what the other one was feeling. As a parent I feel it’s so important to show and to teach our children to be open about their feelings and to say all that is on their mind so they don’t hold it in and become depressed or suicidal in the event of a break up.
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In addition to that you would be surprised just how much your son or daughter wants to talk to the ex to prevent awkwardness at school or at social events they may attend together often such a church or school activities but they don’t feel they can because of lack of support of adults. I feel that helping in initiating that communication is healthy for a parent that has to let go too of someone they have loved for a time as their own while accepting that other person into their lives and homes over a period of time and also to leave things on a positive note so that friendship can be salvaged while teenagers are so young. Break ups are part of growing up and without having a first love break up we don’t get the experience of handling emotional adult issues that will surface the rest of our lives.
I would like to suggest a few things that can be helpful in dealing with your teenager and adult kid breakups and also help you as the parent move forward in letting go too. After all they took a piece of your heart too.
1. Definitely allow space for a time when the break up occurs so when feelings are so fresh and vulnerable there are not negative things being said about each other.
2. After time when things have calmed down and tears have been shed, ask to talk to both of them together about the break up if both are willing and let them say exactly what is on their mind good and bad. If you as a parent are there for guidance and neutral it can make for a great start of at least saving their friendship.
3. Hug it out. I really feel like sometimes you just need to hug it out and release the pain that each caused one another to move forward.
4. As a parent it’s important to be supportive of what this new relationship will be or if there will be none at all depending on what they decide.
5. By showing your kids that you are there for them and that other person, it gives them someone they can trust and also everything is left in a good place to start their new journey without one another in that aspect.
6. While most parents want to place blame on the other person, DON’T!! Chances are your son or daughter was not innocent of blame either and there is always two sides to the story or in my case they both were just too young for something so serious. Remember you did love this other person in your son’s or daughter’s life for a period of time.
7. Don’t beat yourself up as a parent because it is over and you cannot fix it. Your job is to teach how to break up without hate and anger and turn it into a learning experience if your teenagers allow you to do so. Quite honestly teenagers crave that guidance.
8. Grieve as parents in your own way. I know I cried for five days. It seemed like the house lacked the joy that was there for quite a few months. I fell in love with someone else’s daughter as my own. You will always keep that special place in your heart for them if you spent lots of time with them. But the reality is you will have to let go too.
9. Help your child move on by encouraging activities with friends and loved ones. Definitely keep them wanting to communicate but don’t force it. They will come to you when they really want to talk if you respect their space too.
10. Love them up! Even if you have to spoil them a bit to get them over the heartache and NEVER talk bad about their ex. Because to them this person was their reality and to them their everything.
While they may not see it’s in their best interest and in ten years they will look back and laugh, at least you know you set the bar to how to be a good person and how to end relationships without hating the other person. That is valuable to take into adulthood. Parenting is never easy, but letting go while holding on can be the most challenging. When God closes a door that just means there is something better coming in their life! Relationships are never by accident. There can be valuable lessons learned from them at an early age. High school years are a time when we learn how to connect emotionally with others and how to disconnect.
t’s all part of growing up and if we as parents can be neutral parties then the lessons they learn will be swift and less painful. While being a parent may be the hardest job one can have, it’s also the most rewarding. Your teenagers growing into responsible adults in relationships will be the greatest rewards.