British Columbia·Point of View

How can you mend your child's broken heart?

That first big breakup is tough — for kids and their parents. But can parents do anything to help a broken heart?

Watching your child deal with their first big breakup can be heartbreaking for parents, too. How can you help?

That first relationship is great — until it ends. (Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

This story is part of Amy Bell's Parental Guidance column, which airs on CBC Radio One's The Early Edition.

Love has fuelled a thousand songs and sonnets — but heartbreak has fuelled a thousand more. 

And even though your first breakup is a rite of passage, it can break a parent's heart to see their own kids going through it. 

So how can you heal a broken heart? Sadly, you can't — but there are some ways to help them navigate their first big breakup. 

Just listen 

Dr. Carla Fry, a registered psychologist and co-director of the Vancouver Psychology Centre, doesn't focus as much on what parents can do — she's more concerned with making sure parents know what not to do.

Don't minimize their pain by saying it's only "puppy love" and don't run down memory lane and share your own teenage heartbreak, she advises.

"We don't want to say, 'Oh, I totally understand,' because it kind of takes away from the spotlight shining on them," says Fry. "And we don't really know how anybody else feels." 

It's difficult, but try to remember that in the moment, your child just need you to be there and give them a safe place to be sad. What they're feeling is very real and very painful — even if you know it will pass. 

After the initial breakup, that's when parents can play a bigger role, if necessary. If you notice that your child is really disengaging from their life — unable to attend school, participate in sports or hang out with their friend, for example — you may need to talk to them and see if they need help. 

Unfollow the ex — for now

Social media affects so many things when it comes to our kids, and breakups are no exception.

Gone are the days of just avoiding someone in the hallway or ripping up a few photos. Social media has made it incredibly hard for people, especially teens, to disengage with each other. 

Saleema Noon is a sexual health educator for kids and teens and she also helps them navigate their lives online. She recommends taking a step back from the ex's account. 

"They may want to consider de-friending the person, so they're not constantly exposed to what we know is usually a false portrayal of how much fun they're having and how they've totally moved on," Noon says. 

Social media can be petty, hurtful and filled with drama — and very rarely shows what people are truly experiencing.

Helping your child keep this in perspective and distancing themselves from an ex — even if just temporarily — can mitigate a lot of unhealthy social media stalking and commenting. 

Moving on

Part of the reason human beings are so remarkable is our amazing capacity to feel, both the good and the bad. 

Having your heart stomped on really hurts, but it can teach us a lot about what we need and what we want from people, and how to treat those we love or no longer want in our lives. It can remind us that we are capable of putting ourselves back together and moving on.

It can also be the catalyst for some pretty great — or pretty embarrassing — poems and songs.

So, before their hearts are trampled, make sure your kids know you are going to be there if they need you. Maybe with a pint of Ben and Jerry's, but with zero judgment, no "I told you so" and absolutely no bad-mouthing the ex — chances are they'll get back together and break up again approximately 25 times before all is said and done, and there's no need to make things even more awkward.

About the Author

Amy Bell is a digital contributor to CBC. She can be heard weekdays on The Early Edition as the traffic and weather reporter and parenting columnist.


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