ruptures amoureuses

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Breakups in Teenagers

Topics in
this section

1 Teenage breakups

2 How can I help my teenager?

1 Teenage breakups

Most teenagers will experience a breakup at some point. As a caregiver/trusted adult, it’s important to understand what teenagers may feel during this period, so you can help them handle the situation better. Support, including yours, is crucial during this period. Indeed, your support can help your teen make sense of what they’re going through, reduce their uncertainties, teach them to adapt, and build themselves back up after the breakup.

Several things may lead to the decision to break up with a partner. Romantic feelings sometimes aren’t enough to stay in a relationship: love is essential in a romantic relationship, but love alone is not enough. Teens may also ask themselves if breaking up is the right decision if communication is not positive in their relationship, if there are recurring disagreements, if there are more bad times than good, if their values and opinions are respected or not in the relationship, etc. Before breaking up, it’s normal to feel confused and afraid of making the wrong decision.

La rupture à l’adolescence

Breakups may lead to a multitude of emotions, for both the person who decides to break up and for the one who has to accept this decision. For some teens, breakups come with painful emotions such as sorrow, anger, incomprehension, sadness, and even despair. For others, breakups can rather be a sign of relief, of peace.

It’s important to remind teens to listen to their feelings about the relationship and to encourage them to identify what’s best for them.


A breakup can entail a period of bereavement. Indeed, teens are living the loss of a relationship with someone they liked and with whom they may have shared many memories. Mourning the loss of those close to the ex-partner, like their family and friends, is also a possibility.

In an intimate/romantic relationship, the partners' groups of friends often overlap, activities are shared, and the concept of “we” takes up a lot of space. During a breakup, the concept of self (Who am I as an individual?) often needs to be redefined, without the ex-partner. Teenagers also mention that breakups sometimes lead to a fear of not finding another partner and feeling overwhelmed by the effort necessary to build a new relationship with someone they will need to get to know. They may therefore experience the various stages of grief. The stages aren’t necessarily experienced in this order, and not everyone will go through all of them. Also, some stages may last longer than others.

Une rupture amoureuse peut être similaire à un deuil

1. Denial

The teen refuses to accept that the breakup actually happened. They may be in a state of shock, or feel confused about what they’re living.

2. Anger

The teen is angry with their ex-partner and may feel betrayed, abandoned, as well as be upset with the person who left them. This stage often helps the teen let go of the ex-partner.

3. Guilt

During this stage, teenagers tend to look back on certain moments in the relationship, telling themselves that they could have done things differently to maybe maintain the relationship. Guilt can be a painful emotion and may trigger real distress in the person who is feeling it.

4. Sadness

During this stage, sadness can occupy an important place in the teen’s life, which may affect their everyday activities and their usual interest in certain occupations. At this stage, realizing that the relationship is truly over may be quite painful. Every teenager expresses their sadness differently, with tears, the need to be alone, or, on the contrary, with the need to vent to those around them.

5. Acceptance

The teen begins to accept the breakup and emotions are less intense. They may still think about the breakup a lot, but often during this stage, the teen is able to identify positive sides to the breakup. The future may seem promising, despite the loss of their partner.

The first breakup is sometimes experienced with an intensity that can be difficult to understand. Every teenager lives their heartbreak with a different level of intensity and the duration varies. But the fact remains that for some teens, their first breakup is significantly destabilizing and should be taken seriously. The loss may be significant when you consider that your teenager trusted another person deeply, shared intimacy with someone, experienced romantic feelings, etc.

Teenagers may have fears related to their future because of planned projects with their ex-partner, may second-guess themselves, and feel like they will never get over it. It is therefore very important to not minimize your teenager’s emotions, even if, at first glance, they may seem overblown. Just like for adults, love isn’t trivial to teenagers, and neither are breakups.

La première rupture est parfois vécue avec une intensité

How to get through a breakup?

The questions that many teenagers and caregivers/trusted adults ask themselves: When will I feel better? When will my teen feel better? When will they get back to their regular activities, stop suffering?

Unsurprisingly, there is no magic formula to feel better and stop hurting when going through a breakup. Time helps reduce the intensity of the emotions, much like with many other difficulties.

Offering them the space to confide in you, to talk about how they feel, without judgment, and as many times as they need to, is the greatest power a caregiver has when faced with a teen’s breakup.

Comment passer à travers une rupture amoureuse?

Don’t hesitate to tell your teenager that they’re allowed to feel the way they do and that it’s okay, that they can cry and not feel like doing anything. Moreover, if your teenager initiated the breakup, their emotions and angst are just as justified. Every relationship is unique, as is every intimate experience, and that’s what makes every breakup different. Therefore, positive emotions such as relief, freedom, and the desire to meet someone else quickly are all reactions that are just as legitimate as being sad and not wanting to get out of bed.

Accepting to live the difficult and painful emotions that come up will be more effective than trying to push them down at any cost.

Getting back into action

After going through a range of emotions, it’s important to gradually get back into action. After a breakup, it’s sometimes difficult for teens to remember how they kept busy before dating their partner because they did many activities together, they had mutual friends, etc. You can ask your teenager if they discovered new passions with their ex-partner, and if they want to continue to explore them alone or with others. This can help them better weather the transition from being in an intimate or romantic relationship and doing these activities every day with their ex and developing new habits alone or with their peers. We sometimes have the tendency to ask teenagers what their lives were like BEFORE meeting their ex-partner, even though this relationship and the breakup are now part of their experience. They need to adapt to their new reality.

Setting a small challenge for themselves every day, to start, may also slowly help them get back into the swing of things. This can be as simple as going for a walk while listening to music they like, calling a friend, cooking, etc. The goal is for them to relearn how to occupy their time without their partner.

How will I overcome my breakup

Se remettre en action

Are there upsides to experiencing a breakup?

We often talk about the difficulties teenagers experience during a breakup, but can there also be some upsides to come out of this experience?

After a breakup, teenagers sometimes become aware of certain things, such as the importance of self-care, of having a healthy and equal relationship, and of maintaining good friendships even while in a relationship. Breakups may lead them to reassess, which can be destabilizing but also enriching. Some teenagers become more conscious of what they’re looking for in future relationships. They may also throw themselves into new activities or projects they care about.

Breakups remain an often difficult phase, during which the ability to adapt and face adversity is tested. In their journey toward acceptance, teens sometimes discover new tools. Breakups therefore allow teenagers to develop tools and strategies to cope and recover when they’re not doing well.

Du positif à travers l’expérience de la rupture?

Generally, when breakups are accompanied by suffering, thinking about the upsides of the breakup doesn’t happen in the first few days or weeks. Once again, the experience is different for everyone, and when you feel like your teenager may be ready, you can encourage them to think about the positive sides of the breakup:

  • Did they learn more about themselves during the breakup?
  • What did they realize during the breakup?
  • Are there certain benefits to the breakup?
  • What was the hardest thing about the breakup? On the contrary, what was easier than they thought it would be?
  • What helped them the most to get through this period?

La rupture représente-elle certains avantages?

2 How can I help my teenager?

It’s not easy to know what to do when your teenager goes through a breakup. The emotions are often intense, which can be unsettling for you as caregivers and trusted adults. Seeing your teen cry, question themselves, and lose hope can be very difficult. It’s normal to feel powerless when someone you love is suffering. Even when you see positive sides to the breakup, your teenager may not see them. You have the advantage of seeing the big picture, of having an adult’s point of view, whereas your teenager is right in the middle of it and doesn’t yet have the perspective necessary to see beyond the breakup.

Your role is to act as a guide and to provide support to your teenager during this period. This experience remains their own, and no matter how much you would like to, you can’t take away their suffering. Remember that overcoming this difficulty will help them develop their own tools.

Comment aider mon jeune

Here are a few intervention strategies,
to adapt to your reality:

1. Provide a space for them to confide in you and listen

Remind your teenager that you’re there to listen to them, any time. It’s true that some teenagers tend to confide less in others; however, knowing that you’re there if they need you is very reassuring. Take the time to listen to them and hear their story. How are they experiencing the breakup? How do they feel? What hurts the most right now? Feeling that they are being listened to, without judgment, may be very reassuring to teens. You can also come up with a code with your teen that will allow them to let you know when they need you, without having to explicitly say it in front of other family members (e.g., when I text you this emoji, I need to talk to you one on one). This exclusive connection can be reassuring.

2. Respect their pace

Some teens will feel the need to confide in their caregivers right after the breakup happens, but for others, confiding in you may happen later in the process or not at all. Some teens may also feel less comfortable confiding in you. In this case, you can simply ask them if anyone is supporting them right now, such as a friend, a cousin, a sibling, etc. Don’t hesitate to remind them that you’re available if they need anything, but without insisting if your teen seems to need time alone.

3. Try to get their mind off things

When you feel like it’s the right time, that your teenager is receptive, suggest doing an activity or going on an outing together. The goal isn’t necessarily to talk about the breakup, but to help them clear their mind and get back into “action” mode. Which activities do they usually enjoy? What outings do you usually go on together? According to you, what would make them feel better right now? Don’t hesitate to take the lead while accepting their refusal if that’s the case.

4. Ask them what they need

As caregivers, it’s not always easy to know what your teen needs when going through a difficult period. Of course, you’re there to suggest things, to provide a caring presence and offer support. Remember that teenagers know what they need, but that they may also accept some advice. Feel free to ask them as this can help guide you and allow you to meet their needs: for you to listen? getting advice? hearing your personal breakup story? seeing a family member (uncle, aunt, grandmother, grandfather)? spending time alone? spending more time with their friends? going for a walk without talking?

When should I worry?

Most teens get over breakups without developing any problems. Obviously, it’s normal to need time to mourn the relationship and find their balance again. If your teen is taking a lot of time to get back to their everyday activities, has no interest or finds no pleasure in what they enjoyed before, even several weeks or months after the breakup, you can recommend they get outside help, for example, from a school counsellor, a social worker, or another qualified professional, to give them the tools they need to get through this challenging period. Keep in mind that for every teen, the moment when they feel ready to ask for help may vary.

Your teenager’s friends are often the people who will know the most about your teen’s life. Don’t hesitate to involve them, if you feel comfortable doing so, by asking them how they think your teen is doing. This can be an opportunity to tell them that they’re very important to your teenager, who needs the support and presence of their friends right now.

Quand dois-je m’inquiéter?

You can also tell your teen what you’ve observed, what worries you.

For example: “I know that asking for help can be hard. You may not want to share your life story with a stranger. I understand. I’m worried about you, and my role is to make sure that you get better. We can ask for help together. I will be there for you.”

Some teenagers may have suicidal thoughts during this tough time. If this is the case, it’s important to seek help. Suicide prevention centres can help you support your teenager and give you the necessary tools. CLSCs also offer a wide range of services for teenagers, if you feel like counselling with a professional may be helpful.