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Dr. Wendy Walsh, an expert for DatingAdvice.com and author of the soon-to-be-released book The 30 Day Love Detox (Rodale, 2013), offers tips on how you can help your teen through a breakup.
1. Take preventative measures
The time to begin helping your children walk the prickly path of relationship ups and downs is long before they begin dating, says Walsh. "Hopefully you have created an environment of open, nonjudgmental communication. If you haven't, it's time to start biting your tongue and opening your ears," she advises.
Walsh feels that kids need to trust their parents, and the way to earn that trust is for parents to gently inquire and educate about sex and relationships, but never to lecture.
2. Share your own romantic past
Know who you are and how to impart your morals and ethics with integrity when it comes to talking romance with your teen. In order for teens to confide in parents about their own relationships and any concerns they might have, it helps that parents be open with their kids about their romantic histories and admit their mistakes, advises Walsh.
"This conversation is an opportunity to create emotional intimacy with your teen, but it shouldn't be a 'Do as I say, not as I did' conversation," she says. Instead, share stories of the times you went through what your teen is currently dealing with, and talk about how you felt and what you did.
3. Forget the distractions
Parents tend to want to put a bandage on their children's broken hearts by taking them out for retail therapy or distracting them. While this might work in the short term, Walsh says it's important not to overcompensate by going over the top to make your child happy, because they need to feel and express their emotions. "This is a time to offer a safe containment, not a cheerleading routine," she explains. The more you can get your teen to open up and work through those feelings, the easier it will be for them to move on.
Page 1 of 2 -- Discover two more ways to help your teen deal with a breakup on page 2. 4. Don't do the touchdown cheer
Even if you didn't like the person your teen had been dating (or had actually wished for a breakup), don't simply state that you think the relationship's demise is for the best.
"This is not the time for an 'I told you so' conversation," says Walsh. "This is the time for loving support. Remind your teen or tween that they are lovable, that they are a catch," she advises. This is the time to be the arms your child can fall back into, not the snickering victor. Through your support, show your teen that he or she can lean on you -- without judgment.
5. Educate yourself
The way you went about navigating dating in high school is likely different than what your kids are now dealing with. "Mom and Dad, we are not in Kansas anymore. Times are different," says Walsh matter-of-factly.
She explains that young people today start engaging in romantic relationships earlier than their parents might have. But these relationships are often shaky and, in many cases, one person gets more into it than the other. That's when things might come to a halt, even if the two people involved weren't really a "couple" in the first place, she explains. But that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt. Be aware and mindful of this so you can understand your child's heartbreak.
It's crucial that you are there for your child when he or she experiences a breakup. Your teen is likely feeling insecure and unloved, and this is a great opportunity for you to provide the love needed to recover and move forward. No matter how long or brief the relationship was, or how much you did or didn't like the partner, be there for your child to help boost his or her confidence and work through those difficult feelings.
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