Relationships are one of the most significant aspects of life. It is inevitable that your teenager will suffer the loss of a friend or family member at some point, whether that is through death, someone moving away, or a break-up. Knowing how to help them through this difficult experience will benefit you both. Your teenager is a complex human being, filled with many emotions that are difficult to process. When a loss of a relationship occurs, a variety of different responses can come about, such as crying, anger, shutting down, pretending everything is fine, and more.
At Caribbean Mountain Academy (CMA) we see students grieve loss in many different ways. Although there is not one perfect way to help your teen, there are ways to support them in the midst of loss. Here are some of the techniques we use at CMA.
Allow the space for your teen to experience their emotions. They may need to shut down for a bit or be in a state of denial to give them the time to process what is going on inside. You can’t fix what they are going through or force them to talk.
Open communication is key in helping you meet your teen where they are while dealing with the loss of a relationship. Do your best to walk alongside them in a way that communicates, “I’m here for you; through the anger, joy, sadness, happiness, depression, I’m here.” There is no clear-cut way to experience grief.
Another way you can support your teen is through your willingness to listen when they are ready to open up. Allow them the opportunity to talk about the person and the relationship that they lost. This will give you the chance as a parent to understand just how important the relationship was to your teen.
This is a crucial part of the process. Be sure not to minimize the circumstances, such as if they have broken up with a girlfriend or boyfriend. It can be an extremely emotional and difficult time where teens may experience feelings of rejection and hurt, and they are trying to process these emotions. If you minimize them, your teen most likely will not want to open up and share how they are truly feeling inside.
As mentioned above, these are simple guidelines that are helpful to keep in mind. Each situation is unique to your teen and the specific loss they are facing. It will not be a perfect process. Grieving the loss of a relationship is messy. Remember the importance of meeting your teen where they are and allowing them the space to go through their unique grieving process, while surrounding them with your care and support.
Caribbean Mountain Academy (CMA) is a Christian therapeutic boarding school for at-risk teens. The school offers year-round enrollment to English-speaking teenagers in crisis (Age 13 – 17).