On this week's 'Parenting' segment on the Moncrieff show, one listener sought advice about how to help her teenager who is going through a difficult breakup.
Joanna Fortune, psychotherapist specialising in Child & Adult Psychotherapy, joined Moncrieff to answer this and other listeners' questions.
"My 15-year-old daughter has gone through what seems to be the most dramatic break-up in the history of humanity.
"I have assured her that there will be other boyfriends but that only seemed to make her more upset.
"They go to school together and she hates having to see him every day.
"I want to be there for her but I don’t know what I can say to make it better for her. What should I do?"
Listen and subscribe to Moncrieff on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify.
“Avoid the pull to rescue her from these difficult feelings because this is really unpleasant and challenging… She likely didn’t see this break up coming - or whatever led to the breakup… and she may well be really confused as really upset because a part of her life that she derived joy and pleasure from has ended. And maybe even ended abruptly.
“And she’s allowed to feel upset about that because that’s upsetting… So I think be available certainly, validate her feelings but empathise - so that means listen more than you talk. Be available to hear her out and when she talks - no matter what she’s saying - don’t jump in and go, ‘Ah now, that’s very over the top.’ Nobody wants that.
“So instead reflect back what you’re hearing: ‘I hear you’re very upset, my gosh this is really hard.’
“And you’re going to use acceptance and empathy and even at the end wonder, ‘What can I do to help you right now? What about if I make us some hot chocolate? Would you like a snack? What about sticking your runners on and we just get outside for a few minutes for a walk?’
“And if she’s like, ‘No, no, I want to hide under a blanket.’ Just say, ‘Okay, you can hide under a blanket today and tomorrow we’ll do something.’ So that you’re validating what’s happening in the moment.
“Allow her to vent [and] you do not need to have an answer to her venting. You do not need to have a solution. But you just need to be available.
“What I would do as well though and as much as you’re going, ‘How long do I need to listen to it though?’... When you feel like you’ve been listening a lot, encourage her to talk to her friends, meet up with her friends, invite a couple of her friends over… So what you’re doing is you amplify and strengthening up the other positive relationships in her life that she can draw support from and lean into.
“And you’re reinforcing, ‘You’ve got lots of positive relationships in your life, let’s look to those.’
“But don’t push her into getting over this too quickly. Because she won’t. She’ll just stop talking to you about it and it’s not the same thing. So I think you just need to [tell her], ‘This is really hard’ - especially if it’s her first experience of this kind of heartbreak, it can feel all consuming and that it won’t pass.
“We might know that of course it’s going to pass but you know how we know that? By going through it ourselves at that age and the benefit of adulthood and looking back. We can’t catapult her there at 15 to the perspective of a 35 year old or 40 year old. We can’t do that. And it would be to deny her her experience.
“So go slowly, go sensitively and I really feel for her that she has to see him every day! That’s really tough. So you can go, “You’re right, that’s really hard. That’s really challenging. By the way, you will be going to school. You’re not getting out of going to school because of it. But can I drop you to school or pick you up? Can I make it easier for you to get in and out of school while you’re working through this?
“And in saying that, you’re emphasising, ‘While you’re working through this.’”
Main image: A small red love heart pebble stone against a simple background.