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My Guide to Surviving Your Child’s First Breakup

As my 8th grade daughter and I hastily made our way from one school night activity to another, she announces from the passenger seat that her boyfriend just broke up with her. In a text.

[In case you are distracted by a 14 year old with a “boyfriend”, there was no actual dating, no time alone, just a “better than friends” sweetheart status between two kids in a tight knit group of family friends.]

So I did what any self-respecting been-dumped-a-hundred-times-before woman would do. I pulled into the first ice cream shop I saw. The power of dairy therapy can’t be overstated, in my opinion. Many a bruised heart has been healed by the power invested by Ben & Jerry.

As she sat across the table, looking at me with misty eyes over her frozen treat, I decided to take it back to basics. I laid out all the wisdom I’ve gained from four decades of broken hearts.

My Guide to Surviving Your Child's First Breakup

We start with the foundations of truth we know.

The way someone else feels about you – even this boy – has no affect on your value. Your worth is set by God. You are a priceless treasure regardless of the whimsy of another person’s taste. Someone else’s decision to be your partner doesn’t say anything about your beauty, your personality, or what you can offer the world.

Next we remember past lessons.

You have a long history of hard evidence to show your awesomeness. There are countless real examples having nothing to do with this boy that speak to who you are. You are likable. You are sweet. You are kind. People want to be around you.

Let’s examine all the feels, shall we?

It’s OK to be mad. Anger is a normal reaction. It’s OK to be sad. Sorrow is a normal reaction. It’s OK to be…nothing. If this isn’t a big deal, that’s totally normal too. All of the above are to be expected. Relief, disappointment, hurt – all normal. We can feel as many emotions as there are ice cream flavors here, all at the same time. There are no wrong emotions.

There are wrong behaviors.

Despite how you feel, you must choose to act with integrity. Just like that time when your best friend “dumped” you, be careful not to talk trash. Partly because it’s the high road and should be taken. But mostly because you never know when relationships will be repaired. And when two people, be they friends or lovers, who’ve talked a lot of smack get back together…well, it’s weird for the rest of us. So mind your mouth. Be respectful of yourself and of him. Maybe they’ll find a way to still be friends, or maybe it will cause a seismic shift in the dynamics of the whole tribe. Either way, it’s important to take a path we can be proud of later on.

Seek solace from those that love you.

I recommended she immediately call my father. He gave me the best relationship advice in the whole world every single time one of my dating relationships ended. “There are plenty of fish in the sea.” That little sentence restored my hopeful heart more times than I can count. When she calls him, he’s primed and ready to deliver the same sage advice after a 20 year hiatus of soothing the wounded ego of one of his girls.  

Also, tell your bestie. Her best friend’s response was simple. “I will throat punch him.” Yeah, I know, I don’t encourage violence either. If you knew these two quiet-spoken introverted girls, you’d laugh at the foolishness of it. But isn’t that what we all want when we are wronged? Someone to offer to kick the offender’s butt? Well done, friend! It makes a girl smile to feel worthy of defense, and the mental image of a good throat punch brought a much-needed giggle.  

This will be just one of many failed relationships along the way. She has a good head on her shoulders and knows “it was just a middle school romance”. But she has a soft heart in her chest; and it makes for a crummy day, no matter what your head knows. When her dad tucked her in that night, she shared the news with him. He said she pretty much repeated all the things I’d told her over ice cream. This does a mama’s heart good, to know she’s listening and that my message resonated.  

So that’s my guide to navigating tiny broken hearts. Remind them of what they already know, advise them on the best next steps, and then throat punch the little punk who has no manners and dumped your baby girl in a text.

I mean eat ice cream. That’s the only third thing. Just the ice cream.

One Response to My Guide to Surviving Your Child’s First Breakup

  1. Michelle N. April 22, 2017 at 9:00 pm #

    Well my son was a ” little punk” who at 14 broke up with his girlfriend. In a text. The day before 8th grade promotion. She wouldn’t give him the time of day for a good 6 weeks before hand, she’d ignore texts for days, not sit with him at lunch and then tell him nothing was wrong and she was just busy. He questioned everything he said, everything he did and trying to talk him through her lack of manners was no easier for me than the conversation you had to have with your daughter. He was devasted, he didn’t want this but that night she finally said she wanted to go back to being just friends. Funny, she didn’t treat him like a friend.

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