It’s finally happened.
The moment you as a parent have been dreading: your Gen Z kid is going through their first breakup.
Now, chances are it’s been quite a while since your first break up, so you might be a little at a loss at what to do.
But don’t stress, loving parent.
Here’s where we come in with some tips on how to support your grieving Gen Z through one of the most painful experiences in their life (so far).
- Recommend the ‘no contact’ rule
As painful and difficult as it is, no (or bare minimum) contact is absolutely necessary right now. And if your child must see their ex again – whether that’s at school, sporting activities, college/university or for a necessary meeting to return belongings (owch) – help them channel their inner strength and face the situation.
It’s also helpful to remind them that while thoughts about getting back together are tempting, actually doing so is usually a band-aid solution in response to being consumed by my emotions – and can actually exacerbate the heartbreak the second (or third) time around.
Help them resist the urge to text them or show up at their place (or school etc.) and encourage them to unfollow them on social media or even block them if they need to. If that’s a bridge too far for them at this stage they can mute their posts instead, which will keep their ex’s stories and feed posts from coming up, however it leaves the temptation to still stalk their profile which can prolong their heartbreak and recovery.
If they can resist the temptation to stalk then muting allows the possibility to reconnect in a healthy way in the future, while avoiding seeming like you want them out of your life for good. It ultimately comes down to the person and the nature of the breakup.
- Encourage them to feel their feelings (and be there for them when they do)
Breakups can be immensely painful, especially if it’s your first. Year13 contributor Nevada Gill recommends reminding your Gen Z kid about the importance of being present with the emotions that they’re experiencing post-breakup – but that it’s all part of the healing process.
“(Allow yourself to) cry when you find their hoodie and it still smells like them. Look through the photos of the two of you together on your phone obsessively and let the heartbreak consume you for a while,” Gill advises people going through a breakup.
“It’s all part of the process and everyone grieves differently.”
- Help them envision an alternative future
The way romantic relationships intertwine the lives of individuals can make it difficult to see a future without them when it ends, so helping your child envision what their life is going to look like from now – while painful – will help with the grieving process. Gill says self-care is key.
“Do one thing a day that’s just for you – order your favourite lunch, buy yourself flowers, go to the movies and see whatever you’d like without compromising,” says Gill.
“In other words – treat yourself. It’s time to learn how to enjoy your own company again.”
- Remind them that grief isn’t eternal
Acknowledge your child’s grief and that right now it feels overwhelming. Admit their crushing pain will be relentless for some time, and that little things will remind them of their ex.
But it’s important to reassure them that this feeling won’t last forever – that one day they’ll wake up and realise their ex wasn’t the first thing on their mind. That one day they’ll hear their name in a conversation and won’t want to cry. And that one day they’ll be able to look back on the relationship for what it was – the good and the bad – and life lessons they’ve learned from it.
- Join a community
Reddit has an ‘Ex No Contact’ forum entirely devoted to keeping people accountable to not going back to their ex. It’s described as “a breakup support group focused on self-reliance and general healing. Our members listen, support, and encourage each other on their path to independence.” With 90,000 members there are plenty of people to offer support and share their own experiences of getting through a breakup, including people who break the no contact rule and share in their despair that they wish they hadn’t as it resets their healing clock back to zero. However there are many stories of wins too, as people proudly proclaim how going no contact has months later helped them finally move on.