Teens, Here’s How to Break Up Respectfully (NOT in a Text)

We can't expect our kids to know how to breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend... we have to teach them how to do it with honesty, grace and respect

by Nancy Reynolds

This Post: Teens, Here’s How to Break Up Respectfully (NOT in a Text)

Written By: Marybeth Bock

When you’re a teenager, having your girlfriend or boyfriend break up with you is hard enough… but being broken up with (or shall we say, “dumped”) via text or on social media can be downright agonizing.

Young love is a powerful force.

Despite their young age, our kids feel emotions deeply which makes breaking up or being broken up with extremely difficult – regardless of the reason. And, rejection (in any form) can strike straight to the core of a teen’s heart.

Let’s be honest… ending a relationship is difficult even for most mature adults. So, multiply those awkward and uncomfortable feelings by a hundred and you’ll likely understand the difficulty teens face when they break up with someone.

Dear Teens, Here’s How to Break Up With Someone Respectfully

(Ahem… NOT in a Text)


Teens are in a rather stormy stage of development. Their hormones are in flux, their brains are under massive construction and they’re learning to become more empathetic, and emotionally intelligent.

Toss in a relationship (that could range from friendly texting or casually hanging out to having long-term romantic feelings or having a physical connection) that has, for any number of reasons, run its course, and it can be a recipe for disaster.

Navigating the complex unchartered territory of the end of a relationship can cause our teens to feel anxious and nervous, especially not knowing how the person they’re breaking up with will react – will they be shocked? Will they get upset or cry? Will it break their heart?

Is it any real surprise, then, that so many teenagers resort to the “dodge the bullet” way of breaking up over text or social media? ‘If this happened to your son or daughter, I’m sure it was hard on them AND you. You might have even thought it was the cowardly, disrespectful, or insensitive route to take.

But can we really blame our teens if they haven’t been taught how to break up with someone respectfully?  

Despite the obvious “easy way out” benefits of breaking up via text or on social media, it’s far more mature, honorable, respectful, and well… plain decent, to break up in person. Here’s how to equip your teen and help them be better prepared and far more sensitive when they want to end a relationship

5 Things to Talk About With Your Teen Before They Break Up with Someone:

1. Choose the Right “Face-to-Face” Time and Place

There’s a right place AND a wrong place to break up with someone. The hallway at school, on the bus surrounded by friends and classmates, or at the football game, for instance, are all places where a breakup should never occur. Instead, they should choose a private, “face-to-face” place where they can talk without interruptions, distractions, or misinterpretations. 

Having a “How would you feel if someone did that to you?” conversation with your teen can help them better understand the delicate feelings involved in a breakup, especially if it’s their first time in this situation. 

2. Be Honest and Direct

Most of our teens – particularly young teens – will need coaching on how to clearly communicate their feelings and reasons for wanting to end their relationship. We can help them by talking about the importance of being sensitive and using language that is honest and direct, but not hurtful.

We can also share our own break-up experiences and explain how it’s always best to avoid blaming or criticizing the other person. Help your teen focus on expressing their own feelings, not highlighting the faults of the person they are breaking up with.

It might feel awkward for your teen at first, but role-playing can be helpful by having them practice not only WHAT they’re going to say but HOW they’re going to say it when they break up. (Of course, their words matter, but their tone will matter just as much.) Here are a few abbreviated examples:

HINT: Use the “Sandwich Approach.” Start positive. Follow with why they’re breaking up. End on a positive note.

“I care about you deeply and we’ve had some great times together, but we’re arguing far more than we’re having fun. I don’t want to be a couple anymore. But just know you’ll always be special to me.” 

“I’m so glad we dated in high school – we’ve had so many amazing times together. But I’m going to an out-of-state college and you’re attending an in-state college… long distance relationships are hard and I need to focus on adjusting to college. Plus, it’s not fair to you. I think it’s best if we part ways. I hope we can always be friends, you mean so much to me.” 

“You’ll always hold a special place in my heart, but I’m tired of your constant jealousy. It’s just not working between us. I hope you realize how much I care about you.”

NOTE: Your teen doesn’t need to explain in detail why they want to break up. They can simply say, “The relationship isn’t working for them,”  or “They’d rather be single,” for instance. 

3. Be an Empathetic Listener

When a teen breaks up with someone, they’ll certainly be hoping they can get it over with quickly. However, they need to give the other person an opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings without interruption.

It can be really hard for a teenager to muster up the empathy to listen attentively and validate someone else’s emotions, especially if they don’t agree with or fully understand the other person’s perspective.

But everyone deserves to be heard – especially if it was a long relationship or the breakup took them by surprise. Learning to be an empathetic listener will help them in future relationships.

4. Be Respectful and Kind

It’s only natural for there to be hurt feelings during the breakup. Your teen may very well receive negative feedback, tears, or even anger – it’s important to talk about the possible reactions they might receive and how to handle it so they’re prepared. 

Encourage them to remain calm AND treat the other person with respect and kindness throughout the conversation, no matter what their reaction is. They should avoid resorting to hurtful language or behavior and focus on ending the relationship with dignity and compassion. If a response turns verbally abusive, they should of course end the conversation and convey that they’ll consider talking at a later time when the situation has calmed down. 

NOTE: If your teen is concerned their girlfriend or boyfriend may become extremely angry or violent, they should NOT break up in person.

5. Set Boundaries Moving Forward

Life after a breakup can be hard, particularly when both teens involved are part of a big friend group or have to see each other constantly in class. Talk with your teen about how they’ll navigate potential interactions after the breakup and how they may need to establish clear boundaries that will make it easier for each teen to move on.

They may need guidance on how to respect the other person’s need for space and time to heal, and with avoiding unnecessary contact or communication that could prolong the pain of the breakup. (In time, it might be easy for some ex-couples to become “friends” again – or at the very least “friendly,” whereas, other couples sever all ties – and that’s okay. Sometimes, couples can rekindle a friendship once they’ve both moved and started dating others.)

Also, remind your teen that it’s NEVER a good idea to badmouth an ex or gossip about them to other people after they’ve broken up. Trust me, other girls/guys are watching how they handle the breakup and their reputation is being formed.

Our kids are bound to make mistakes during their teen dating experiences (they’re learning!), so give them plenty of grace as they navigate more complex relationships.

Make sure your teen knows you’re there to listen and support them whenever they want to talk. And, remember, even if they’re the one breaking up, they may need time to grieve the loss of the relationship. Be careful, too, not to downplay their emotions. Just because our kids are young, doesn’t mean they don’t understand the powerful feelings of love.


Marybeth Bock, MPH, is a Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor, and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing – as long as iced coffee is involved. Her work can be found on numerous websites and in two books. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.


If you enjoyed reading, “Teens, Here’s How to Break Up Respectfully (NOT in a Text),” you might also enjoy reading: 

My Teen is Starting to Date: 10 Rules I’m Implementing in My Home

Things I Want My Teen Son to Know Before He Starts Dating

10 Things I Want My Daughter to Know Before She Starts Dating

Why Not Join Us?
I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )
Join over 3.000 visitors who are receiving our newsletter and learn how to optimize your blog for search engines, find free traffic, and monetize your website.
RAISING TEENS TODAY is a resource and safe zone for parents to share the joys, challenges, triumphs and frustrations of raising our oh, so imperfect (but totally awesome) teens. PLUS, sign up and you'll receive my FREE e-Book "Scoring Scholarships!"

You may also like

Leave a Comment