You've Got A Friend In Me: Why parents need to take friendship break-ups more seriously
"Just as difficult if not harder than breaking up with a romantic relationship."
We all remember the first time we got our hearts broken by our first love, but a lot of people don't realise the impact a friendship break-up can have on you, no matter what age you are. It's something parents need to take more notice of.
HerFamily spoke to psychologist Rebecca Lockwood about the damaging impact these break-ups can have on teenager's mental health, especially if they don't talk about them. Rebecca explained that friendship break-ups can have a negative impact on a young person's mental health, especially if they're inclined to bottle up their feelings. Having a strong support system and someone they can confide in can make these hurdles in life that little bit easier for them.
She shared: "When we have friends we can find ourselves getting into certain routines, feeling in safe spaces around them and they become a big part of our lives. Connection is one of the most significant parts of our lives and we get this through friendships.
"When we end relationships this can have a negative impact on mental health because that connection is gone, and what tends to happen is we internalise that something may be wrong with us for that bond to have been broken."
"A sense of loss and grievance can be common when people lose friends. Especially if this person was a big part of life, the whole routine of life or parts of it can be changed meaning that it is pushing the individual out of the normal zone of comfort, until this becomes comfortable again for the individual they are likely to feel a sense of loss."
Young people are already dealing with so many issues from body confidence and depression to exam pressure. They're trying to figure out who they are, what they like, who they love, and everything in between. The last thing they need is to feel like they're not enough because of a friendship that ended unexpectedly. As parents, it's essential that you provide them with emotional support when they experience something like this. To you, it may seem like a minor problem, but to them, a part of their world has come crashing down.
"Breaking up with a friend can be just as difficult if not harder than breaking up with a romantic relationship. Especially if the relationship has been since childhood. The relationships we hold with our friends tend to be so significant in our lives and life long. Parents need to understand that when this connection is broken it can cause heartbreak too," Rebecca explained.
The best thing you can do is ensure you're communicating in an open and understanding way. Don't make them feel guilty or silly for how they're feeling. Their feelings are valid and nobody should question them, especially when they're already in a particularly vulnerable situation.
"Speak to your child about how they are feeling. Let them know that they don’t have to bottle it up. Speaking to people around you can help you let go of the feelings and also acknowledge that you are human and feel things and this is normal. Ensure your child feels safe to talk and knows that it is ok to be sad or feel emotional. Normalise feelings and emotions and comfort them in a way that supports them."
We can all be guilty of brushing our feelings aside but let's try our hardest to make sure our children don't develop this habit. We need them to feel comfortable in their feelings and realise that even the bad ones are valid. There is never any shame in feeling a certain way. If you need to cry then let it out instead of bottling everything up.
Remind your child that these feelings are normal, but they are also temporary. It may feel like the heartache will last forever, but it won't. Life is all about the highs and lows, but they can often feel ten times more intense when you're a teenager. Sometimes having someone tell you that it will get better is what you really need. A different perspective and a little hope can go a long way.
Rebecca added: "Bear in mind that it may be temporary. It may be down to you going through different phases of life and at this moment you are not relating that well because you don't understand each other and what you are going through. It may be hard to relate at this time because your priorities in life have changed. "
"The important thing to remember is that you should always surround yourself with people who are supportive and care about you. If you have relationships that are no longer supportive it’s time to end the relationship or at least reduce the amount of time you spend with that person.
She added: "You are the 5 people you surround yourself with and you have to be clear on what kind of person you are and who you want to spend your time with and what relationships should be nurtured and which ones should be reduced."
It may hurt and their heart will ache, but remind them that this is only a very short chapter of their life. Far happier ones filled with kind people await them. Remind them not to lose sight of that.
As John Green once said, "It hurt because it mattered."