Your teen’s break-up from their first sexual experience is going to be very hard. Now break-ups are hard of course, but this will hold a unique place in their heart since they shared something special with this person they thought maybe they would love forever. Irrespective of your position on teen sexual activity, your teen will do better if you can help them get through this heart break. You will also be in a much better position to get help if they make the transition to depression or become suicidal.
What can you do:
1. Start talkin’. Ask why they aren’t mentioning someone’s name, or doing certain activities anymore. You can also just tell them they look sad or don’t seem their usual self to you and you’re worried about them.
2. Relationship deal breakers. Ask if something happened that was a distrust issue, did someone cheat or lie? You want to help your teen understand that this happens, but help sharpen their skills to choosing an even better partner next time and determining the things they will and will not put up with in a relationship.
3. Fine-tuning Selection Criteria. Ask if there was anything that made them feel uncomfortable about the person. They didn’t feel like the person gave as much to the relationship, or the other person wasn’t as considerate of their feelings. This type of break up is a great way to help your teen realize how much more mature they are becoming about having their needs met in a relationship. It also encourages fine tuning of selection criteria if this partner was chosen based on a superficial reason like they were popular or very cute.
4. Support. Ask if they have other friends to speak with as well. Your opinion on how great they are is going to be slightly biased. So make sure they have plenty of support and not just a parent that has undying and unconditional love for them.
5. Avoid remembering only good times. Asking about things that made the relationship difficult or ways the partner could have been even more perfect is a great way to gently get your teen to make a list of ways they will improve their next partner, get a sense of their true needs in a relationship and a way to begin to remember the negative things about the person that people tend to forget when their heart is broken. Their memory will be selective for the good times and forget the series of things that helped them realize that this was not the person for them. It is this list they should review, not the good times.
With all of this asking, there should be plenty of opportunity for your teen to talk. What is most important is that you not judge or offer your opinion too much. You want to use words that will keep them talking so as to make you more of a sounding board and less of an opinionated interviewer or worse parent. Once you can get them talking and reviewing their list of relationship flaws you will be in a better position to determine any transitions of heartache to depression or suicidal thoughts. You will be able to gently question their decision to make-up in an attempt to hold off on their heartache.
Heartache is part of the relationship life cycle. It never gets easier, but with a great support system your teen will get through and not just get through they can be smarter having learned something about themselves in the process rather than developing bitterness or anger about the process.