Our Teens Need to Know That We Support Their Relationships

“She wants to see me today at the mall, but she’s still not sure if she wants to be my girlfriend again,” my son told me as he sat at our kitchen island reading a text from his ex-girlfriend. I felt my back tense up as I said something I never should have said.

“I don’t think you should go. She needs to know you aren’t going to jump at the opportunity to see her just because it’s convenient for her.” I didn’t like my son’s ex-girlfriend at the time and I let him know. 

mom hugging daughter
I need to listen to my teen without judgement. (@lilsunnymari via Twenty20)

I had watched my son have his heart broken

I had just watched him go through weeks of heartbreak. This had been his first girlfriend, and she’d gotten close with the rest of the family. When she broke up with him suddenly, he didn’t know what to do. He cried and stayed in his room for weeks. He wasn’t himself, and I was so angry at her.

Of course, I know this happens. I was a teenager once and had my heart broken many times. I’m sure I was the cause of tears myself. We have to be true to ourselves, which can mean we hurt some people. No one is obligated to stay in a relationship with us or our kids. 

It’s really hard to like a person who has caused your child to suffer

However, when it’s your child, and you see them suffering, it’s tough to like the person who caused them pain. But, that day made me change my mind about how I talk about the people who hurt my kids. My son did see her that day, and when he came home, he didn’t want to tell me about it. “You don’t like her. I told her you don’t like her anymore.” 

Yes, I was mad at her, but by letting my son know exactly what I thought, I caused them unnecessary hurt, and in hindsight, I should have kept my feelings to myself. She and my son did get back together, and he didn’t want to share it with me and didn’t want to have her come over. What was worse is that he didn’t come to me for support when they broke up again as he had before. 

I’ve watched my daughter go through a lot of friend drama. Teenage girls love each other until one day it changes. When she comes to me with relationship problems, I have to remind myself about the experience I had with my son; she isn’t looking for me to hate on her friends or take a strong side.

She needs me to listen and talk her through some things. I do this by hearing her out, asking her questions like, “How did that make you feel?” without passing judgment because I know it might come back to bite me later. 

Our teens just need to know that we have their back

Our teenagers need to know we are on their side and we have their back. We can offer them our full support without canceling the people who have hurt them by breaking up with them or taking a break from their friendship. There are always two sides to the story, and I know my teens aren’t perfect, make mistakes, and hurt others.

The most important reason I bite my tongue (as hard as it may be) is because things change. People grow up, they apologize, and they work things out. Old lovers get back together. Old friends reunite.

How can I teach my kids to have empathy, open their hearts, and give people second chances if I make it known the second someone crosses them, they are dead to me? I wouldn’t like it if another parent treated my child that way, and I should not do it to my kids’ peers and friends. 

It’s not easy to welcome someone who has hurt your child back into their life with open arms but the thing is, this is our child’s life. They get to decide what they can and can’t forgive. They choose how many chances they give someone. They are learning and growing from their relationships, and ,we have to let them do that without clouding their decisions. 

I want my kids to feel comfortable coming to me with anything

I want my kids to come to me with anything. I want them to know if they decide to get back together with an ex, or a friendship that went bad is rekindled, I support them. (Of course, there are extreme situations when we feel our child may be in danger when accepting this would be impossible for any mother and we have to get involved in a different way.) I need them to know that if they vent to me about someone, I am not going to hold it over them or the person they are talking about. And if they decide to work things out, I support that. 

Our teenagers need us to support them through difficult times and decisions. This is one of the best ways to show them we trust them to make their own decisions and that they are allowed to change their minds. People change and work through things all the time. Our teens need the space to do that.

We can support our teens without making them feel like they can’t come to us and share their experiences. After all, if they can forgive and move on, we need to be able to do the same. 

The author wishes to remain anonymous.

More Great Reading:

Dear Teens, Your Friends Are More Important Than Your Romantic Relationships

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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