It happens so suddenly you don’t even realize that the years have flashed by and your baby is no longer a baby. To you, they are still that squealing little bundle that the nurse handed you on the day they were born, but today, everything has changed. Today, your child has a crush. How in the world did this happen? And more importantly, what role do you play in the epic first crush? In the midst of deciding how to discipline, teach, and encourage our children, remembering to learn how to handle their first crush is something that the majority of parents overlook.
Not all kids are going to come right out and start talking about the boy or girl (or teacher!) that they like. It’s also important to realize that first crushes don’t happen in the teen years; according to specialists, you should be ready for your child’s first crush when they are about 5 or 6 years old. Many kids play coy instead of letting you know how they feel; they may by shy or embarrassed, but there are a few tell-tale signs that you can look out for:
• The giggles: If your child is suddenly giggly around a friend of the opposite sex or even at the mention of them, it might be time to ask a few more questions. Also watch for signs of embarrassment or shyness when this friend is mentioned; if your little guy or gal’s cheeks turn tomato red, you’ve got a crush on your hands.
• Suddenly Romantic: If your child is suddenly interested in the romantic stories in movies that you are watching or if they are suddenly reading every fairy tale book with a kissing prince and princess they own, they may be curious about the feelings that they are having. Take a subtle approach and try to answer their questions without prying until they are ready to talk.
• Playing House version 2.0: If your child’s game of “House” suddenly involves marriage, kissing, and romance, it’s a good idea to find out what started it. Kids go through several phases of thinking the opposite sex has “cooties,” so if they are suddenly getting married ten times a day, something (or someone) has caused the change.
Feelings, Feelings, and More Feelings
While you may think that your child’s crush is absolutely adorable and you know that they will have at least 50 more before they reach marrying age, to them, it’s a serious matter. Your child is experiencing brand new feelings that he doesn’t understand and needs to be taken seriously. Do not tease your child; this will only result in hurt feelings and could keep your child from being open to talking to you about their crushes; now and in the future. As you listen to your child, don’t laugh or make light of their feelings; be on the same note and take the same tone as they do.
When your child expresses concern, let them know that having a crush is a wonderful thing and that they will probably have lots of them. Let them know that their feelings are normal, healthy, and perfect! Feelings will come into play again if and when your child has his or her heart broken. While it may not happen with their first crush, it is bound to happen at some point in their life and they will not be prepared for it; you have to be. While it may seem like something small and trivial to you, for your child their whole world has just fallen apart. Take their heartbreak seriously and do what you can to help them feel better. Remind them again that there will be lots of crushes and encourage them to realize that they are special and will find someone special to love them back one day.
Don’t smother them, since this is something that they will need to be able to get through on their own. You can offer hugs and words of encouragement; a bowl of ice cream and a good movie also work wonders for a broken heart. Just be supportive in whatever way they need you to be, and remember not to make light of the situation.
Set Boundaries Now
Even though your child is still extremely young when the first crush hits, it’s never too early to start setting boundaries and letting them know what is and is not appropriate and acceptable. Let younger children know that kisses are only for mommy and daddy but that it’s okay to talk to their crush, make him or her cards, or hold their hand. TV and movies nowadays often lead even the youngest kids to believe that the only way to let someone know that they care is by kissing; this is something you need to clarify right away.
Elementary school aged kids should be talked to about what types of physical affection are appropriate and what is never allowed. Many children today also have cell phones at young ages so texting and appropriate conversation needs to be discussed as well. Once your child is old enough to start wanting to go to movies and other things with friends, even more boundaries need to be set as to where they can go and what time they are expected to be home.
Setting rules and ensuring your child understands certain things from the very first crush will help with subsequent crushes as they grow up and even dating when they get into their teen years.