How to Help Your Teen After a Bad Breakup

Last night I got a phone call from my college freshman daughter – the kind you don’t want.
“Mom,” she sobbed, catching her breath. “He said he doesn’t love me anymore. He doesn’t want this relationship anymore. That he doesn’t see a future for us.”
Her boyfriend, her first love and THE ONE she was sure, ended their relationship and shattered her heart into a million pieces. She had no idea this was coming and it caught her completely off guard. She had just visited him at his college last weekend and they had a great time, or so she thought. Two days later he called and ended it.
8 ways to help a daughter (or son) through a bad breakup
She is two hundred miles away and doesn’t have a close friend group yet. He was her best friend – the one she talked to, bared her soul to, envisioned a life with.
What do you do when your precious child has their heart broken? We’ve all been through it at some stage of life. Most of us have been on the receiving and the sending end of a bad breakup. But what do you say to your child who is completely and utterly shattered?
I’ve been thinking of things to say – and not to say. How to comfort her without hurting her. Here is what I have so far:

8 Ways to Help Your Daughter (or Son) Through a Bad Breakup

1. Validate feelings.

This HURTS LIKE HELL. I remember it vividly. The beginning of my sophomore year, my boyfriend of a year dropped me. I was so shocked I was physically ill. I struggled to function for a few days. It really is true that “the first cut is the deepest.”

2. No bashing the ex.

The ex is a kid struggling to figure out his own life with what little life experience he has, so bashing, unless the ex was abusive, or controlling or something like that. In this case, he is a nice guy and he seemed to truly care about her and love her, at least for a time. Besides, you never know, they could get back together.

3. No platitudes.

There is no easy fix. Not only does it hurt, but it is going to hurt for a while – weeks, maybe even months. To me, it is a process and you have to have space and time to mourn the loss of a relationship. A close family member felt she was  passing through the stages of grief when she filed for a divorce from her husband. I think you can mourn the end of a relationship just as much as a person.

4. Get out there.

Not to date, but to try all the new things college has to offer. New people, new relationships, day trips, bible studies, Greek life, choral groups, intramural sports, whatever. Being occupied and meeting new people will help ease the pain. The central person of her life is now gone and there is a void, but there is also more time and attention to devote to other things and other relationships.

5. Don’t rebound.

Corollary to#4. Meeting new people is a way to stave off loneliness because, lets face it, the sudden end of a close, intimate and loving relationship leads directly to loneliness. Do not, DO NOT, find a substitute boyfriend. You weren’t looking for the one you had – your relationship grew naturally out of friendship. So will the next one, but you must let it grow organically. Fortunately, in college, you are surrounded by tons of people your own age. Go meet them, but don’t get romantically involved until you have healed or, at least, healed enough to trust someone with your heart again.

6. No regrets.

Never regret truly loving someone. Even in a failed relationship you learned how to love someone and be loved in return. You had a good relationship with a good guy. It just didn’t work out. Distance relationships are very difficult to maintain and rarely work. You did nothing wrong and there is nothing wrong with you. You have a great capacity to love and one failed relationship doesn’t change that.

7. Beware of depression and alcohol/drugs.

Some people slide from unhappiness into depression. Be aware if you are truly struggling to cope with everyday things like getting up for class, being social, or taking care of yourself. Alcohol and/or drugs will only make things much, much worse. Besides that they are illegal for you at your age. In your state of mind right now they can only cause you further sadness, loneliness and the possibility of truly regretful decisions.


We love you, always, always, always, and we are here for you. You can call us anytime, day or night. Come home for a weekend if you need to.

Love, Mom

The writer chooses to remain anonymous.


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About Grown and Flown

Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan are the co-founders of Grown and Flown the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. They are writers (Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author), moms, wives and friends. They started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and are co-authors of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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