What to do when your child has their first crush
It seems like just yesterday your child was avoiding the opposite sex at all costs. Now they’re not only fascinated by them, but downright smitten – cooties and all.
“While the nature of attraction and affection evolves with age, many children will already have experienced a first crush by the time they reach the early elementary years,” says Dr. Gabrielle Roberts, a clinical psychologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill.
Fear not, parents – Dr. Roberts has crafted this must-have guide to help your little ones navigate their new-found world of puppy love:
-Know the signs. Your child may not tell you what they are feeling right away (because, well, they may not understand it themselves). But if you notice that they have taken an extra interest in someone new, act silly or excited or blush at the mention of a specific peer, or have pretend weddings more often than before, your son or daughter may have been bitten by the love bug.
-Play it cool (but remember, you aren’t). Even at a young age, children can be sensitive and timid in response to your questions about a potential crush. As children get older, they are less likely to think that advice from a parent is viable. That is, we ‘don’t get it.’ Ask questions casually and respond casually—you’re more likely to get the juicy details that way. It’s ultimately not important that you have all the information; it’s just important that your child knows you are willing to talk about it and are there to help if needed.
-Be a good listener. As parents, we have a tendency to talk more than listen. Reversing that equation and learning to listen more will help you learn about your child’s feelings and will enable you to offer better support.
-Offer guidance when needed—but don’t be pushy. It’s good to check in on things from time to time, and it’s certainly smart to inquire if your child seems unhappy, but it is also important to give children space to make their own choices (as long as they are safe choices). Interpersonal relationships are a crucial part of development, and children need to learn through experience. Helping your child problem solve a situation instead of just telling them what to do will help them increase confidence in their decisions and help them navigate future relationships. They may not make the same choice that you would make, but that’s okay.
-Take deep breaths! Supporting children through relationships can be extremely stressful for parents. Sometimes parents don’t like their children’s choices, and it’s painful to see them get hurt. Remember that getting hurt and recovering is also a necessary interpersonal skill. Parents cannot protect them from their sad feelings, nor should they; rather, you can hug them, comfort them, give them space when they need it and help them learn to cope. Oh, and don’t forget to breathe deeply through it all!
About the Author
Efua Richardson, health enews contributor, is a senior at Lewis University studying public relations & advertising. In the future, she hopes to work in entertainment, namely in the music industry. In her free time, she enjoys reading, scrolling through Instagram and trying new ethnic dishes. Among her talents is the ability to move her kneecaps in tune to music and wiggle her nose.