Teen girls and breakups: Helping them move on

Feb 8, 2010 at 1:15 p.m. ET

First loves are magical. You enter a whole new world of holding hands, kissing, dating ... and it can also be an intense and emotional time. But with first loves comes the inevitable first breakup. Most first relationships do end, leaving teen girls to deal with a whole new set of emotions, including heartbreak. The good news? There is a silver lining in all of this: The lessons girls can learn from that first breakup.

Upset Teen Girl

Do you remember your first boyfriend? There is a rush of excitement and emotions that comes with that first relationship. Everything is brand new with a girl's first boyfriend: feelings, experiences, managing relationships. It can be an overwhelming and confusing time...and the breakup can be devastating. No one likes to be rejected, and breaking up can feel like an ultimate, unrecoverable rejection. As adults, we know that isn't the case, but when you are a teen, it can sure feel like it.

"A girl's first breakup can be really painful. She has no experience that tells her she'll ever have someone else. But, she's learning essential life skills: grieving, what doesn't work in relationships, how to tell when love isn't love, and how important friends are when your beloved lets you down. These are the foundation skills for every subsequent relationship," says Tina B. Tessina, PhD, a psychotherapist and author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage.

The good news? Girls can learn so much from that first heartbreak. Here are five great lessons your daughter can take away.

First breakup lesson #1: Resilience

It might not feel like it at the time, but everyone lives through that first breakup and comes out a little stronger and better for it. Really.

Relationship experts say that this resilience can help girls refocus their energies in a healthy, productive way. "They will learn they have more emotional strength then they knew that had, and that they do not have to settle in any relationship. They can use this time to call girlfriends they may have not seen in awhile, or to renew participation in a sport they love. If they can open up to their parents with their feelings, they might be surprised to learn that their parents had similar experiences in their teens," says Connie Love, a life coach.

Girls should learn that no guy is worth setting aside favorite activities and friends.

First breakup lesson #2: Most relationships don't last

Perhaps it's a little morbid, but the fact is that most relationships aren't forever. Sure, he might seem like the perfect guy ever to your teen, but high school loves are fickle at best. "Most of your dating relationships will end, unless you get married, and sometimes even that relationship is terminated by divorce. So, know that every relationship does not have to last forever; that may be setting your hopes too high right now. Sometimes you meet guys with whom you have a loving relationship for just a season," says J.J. Smith, a dating and relationship expert, author of Why I Love Men: The Joys of Dating.

So, girls should learn to enjoy their first relationships for what they are: a fun, enjoyable learning experience.

First breakup lesson #3: Falling in love is a good risk

Alfred Lord Tennyson one wrote, "'Tis better to have loved and lost/Then never to have loved at all." Truer words have never been uttered.

Falling in love poses a huge risk: it might not work out and you may end up with a broken heart ... but that's just temporary and the experiences leading to their can be great."You must realize that falling in love means that you take the risk of being hurt. That is the risk you take, but it is worth the risk. Don't let fear of being hurt prevent you from getting involved in deep meaningful relationships," says Smith.

And as for the hurt, it comes with the territory and is important for emotional growth. "It will be important to feel the pain. By allowing ourselves to feel the pain, hurt and sometimes rejection, we grow stronger as well as identify ways to improve ourselves for the next relationship. Pain in life is inevitable so learn how to feel and heal from these painful experiences in life," says Smith.

Next page: How breakups can actually improve your teen's self esteem

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