Surely you recall your first bout with love. The butterflies in your stomach when passing your crush in school hallways. The way you tried to act cool whenever they stepped in the room. How you’d written your betrothed’s name all over your Trapper Keeper. One day your child will experience the same wonderful, horrible feelings you once did. The signs will be easy enough to recognize: one day they’ll see a romantic scene in a movie and instead of saying “Eww, that’s gross,” they’ll say, “Aww, that’s cute!”
In general, these feelings emerge around the time kids enter kindergarten or first grade because, as they spend more time in school and in activities outside the family, they’ll begin to feel affection for their classmates. Crushes are perfectly healthy, even at an early age; in fact, they’re a major part of your child’s emotional and social development. But as with all love, there always remains the risk of heartbreak and emotional pain, experiences that are hard for anyone to deal with, let alone children. Here are a few tips on what you can do upon discovering your little one has an objet d’amour.
Please, no teasing, especially in front of family. Yes, you may view your child’s first crush as something that’s cheek-pinchingly cute, but bear in mind that the more you might tease, the more shame and uncertainty your child is likely to feel. It might even make them deny their feelings or be more guarded about them next time. So respect the real and intense feelings your child may be experiencing. Validate their feelings by making positive statements. Be inquisitive but not intrusive. Ask your child what they like about their crush and if they think their feelings are being reciprocated. Listen to what they have to say and show genuine interest. It may be appropriate to share stories of your first crush. It’s also important to encourage staying friends with a crush even “if” (after) the romance fades. After all, it’s likely your child will be classmates and friends with the ex-crush for years to come.
Crushes are a child’s first forays into the world of relationships. It’s a world fraught with complications and issues of vulnerability, desire, embarrassment, rejection, sadness, disappointment, and power. Besides being a good listener, perhaps the most important thing you can do about your child’s first crush is to set a good example through your own relationships. Your kids watch your every move – how you interact with family, friends, everyone. By setting good examples and being your child’s confidant, you’re helping prepare them for the emotional wonders and heartaches that growing up will inevitably bring.
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