The teenage years mark a gateway to adulthood. Suddenly, the childlike problems you'd grown used to handling become so adult-like. You may feel a little nostalgic for the days when name-calling or refusal to share toys were your child's biggest relationship issues. Dealing with teenage breakups is not nearly so easy -- but when you remember that your child is still a teenager, not really an adult yet, helping him through his adult-like issues becomes a little easier.
The most logical response to a teenager's breakup problems is to address what went wrong in the relationship and tell your teen how to act better next time. However, logic and teens don't mix. Avoid pointing out the problems in the relationship directly, as doing so might make your teen feel she is under personal attack. Since the teenage years are a time of finding one's own identity, pointing out an attitude problem or a negative trait might do more harm than good. Instead, allow open communication, which will show your teen that she is safe to discuss the breakup without criticism.
The first step in moving on after a breakup is acceptance. For a teen going through hormonal changes, finding acceptance is often difficult. As a parent, you can help your teenager through the process of finding acceptance. Explain to him how his emotions are under the influence of hormones and that being resilient through a problem will make him stronger. It may help to teach him the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, emphasizing the acceptance portion. He will likely be able to relate to these stages and understand that acceptance is inevitable.
Anita Naik, advice columnist and author of "Coping with Loss: The Life Changes Handbook," emphasizes communication in helping teens wade the waters of large life problems. For a teenager who is going through a breakup, this is especially true. After all, your teenager just lost the person most likely to listen, at least in her point of view. The truth is that a good parent is really the person who is most likely to listen. Let your teenager know that you'll always be there for her, if she's willing to talk.
Encouragement Instead of Hard Advice
Parents have more experience than teens and can probably give useful advice for a teen going through a breakup. But teens often don't care how much relationship experience their parents have. The hard advice you offer, such as "Start dating other girls and you'll forget about your ex" or "Focus on your studies; they're more important," is likely to go in one ear and out the other. Use encouragement instead of advice when talking to your teen. This shows your teen that you respect his ability to make decisions while still allowing you to counsel him on what to do. Give your teen advice by laying out useful facts and emphasize that the choice is his as to how to use them.