I’ll never forget the first field trip I chaperoned for my oldest daughter, now 24 years old. Her Kindergarten class went to a local farm to have a hayride to the pumpkin patch. I was so excited to be a part of it, especially when she called me over to meet some of her friends.
We left happy and sticky from the farm fresh apple cider along with two big, beautiful pumpkins. The car ride home was full of conversation about the day when all of a sudden she began to giggle and asked me how I liked her friend Chester. I said I enjoyed meeting all her friends, but the conversation circled right back to Chester, or “Chetty” as she referred to him. Within minutes she let me in on a little secret—Chetty was her new boyfriend!
In How to Handle Your Child’s First Crush experts say that kids commonly have their first crush when they’re 5 or 6. “Younger children focus their love on their family,” explains Cynthia Langtiw, Psy.D., assistant professor at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. “But as kids enter kindergarten or first grade, they feel affection for their classmates too because they’re spending more time in school and in activities outside their family.”
If you’re now experiencing a little one who has discovered she feels like she’s falling in love, take heart and know that this is quite normal and nothing to be alarmed at. Mighty Mommy shares five ways you can assist Cupid and help her manage her first crush.
#1. Be Gentle
A first crush can be a really big deal for your young child, and from what I’ve experienced with my 8 kids, they are usually very excited to share that they have a special new someone in their lives. I admit I was a bit surprised when my oldest daughter announced she had a bit of a love interest at age 5, but I saw how tender and special she felt because of her feelings for little Chester so I didn’t want to squash it and make her feel like she was wrong to have a crush.
Instead, take a gentle approach and make some time to talk with your child about exactly what type of feelings they have for their crush. “It looked to me like Chester makes you feel really happy and you enjoy being around him?” Be sure to normalize your child’s feelings to keep them from getting embarrassed around their crush. And definitely don’t tease your child; this will only result in hurt feelings and could keep her from being open to talking to you about their crushes; now and in the future. Let them know that having a crush is totally normal and healthy.
#2. Ask Questions
Allison Bates, a registered clinical counsellor, states that it can be a challenge for parents to react appropriately. “You still see them as your little babies,” she says. For that reason, it’s important to have a plan.” She states that when your child has a crush, it’s the beginning of talking about relationships with him. Therefore, instead of shying away from the topic, she recommends asking questions. “Why do you like that boy?” or “What interests you about him? Is he funny? Is he really good at soccer?” she suggests. Focus on what they value about their crush. This will help kids see the importance of their own inner qualities.
#3. Validate Feelings
Just as quickly as I learned about my daughter’s crush on Chester, I learned that he had dumped her! OK, perhaps that’s being a bit dramatic, but I do remember her getting ready for bed and telling me that she wasn’t going to wear her hair down at school anymore. When I asked her what made her decide on her hairstyle, she wimpered a bit and said that Chetty told her he liked her friend Erin now instead of her. Turns out Erin had shorter hair that she always wore in a ponytail.
Just as quickly as I learned about my daughter’s crush on Chester, I learned that he had dumped her!
Kristin Lagattuta, Ph.D., associate professor of developmental psychology at the University of California, Davis states in How to Handle Your Child’s First Crush “Early infatuations usually don’t last long—and most kids get over them quickly. However, your son may be hurt if a classmate says she doesn’t want to be his “girlfriend” anymore. “Ask him how he feels about it,” suggests Dr. Lagattuta. “Then point out all his great qualities and the other friends he has.” It’s also helpful to mention some of your experiences from childhood so your child realizes that what he’s going through is perfectly normal.” See Also: Whoa, Whoa, Whoa Feelings
#4. Keep Talking
I remember feeling a bit awkward when my daughter had her first crush. I wasn’t so sure how much attention I should give to the matter, and although I wanted to be supportive, I also didn’t want to draw a lot of attention to it either. In How to Handle Your Child’s First Crush, Carleton Kendrick, EdM, a Boston-based family therapist explains, “Help your elementary-age child prepare to deal with a crush, which is a distant cousin to dating, by having an ongoing dialogue from a young age, doing so in a way she can understand about being respectful of her own body and herself.”
“Then, as your child ages into the pre-teen and teen years, keep talking. These days, pre-teens and teens can put pressure on each other to add sexual exploration to the equation under the misguided notion that if they don’t have sex with their crush, it’s not really love. “This is a big change from what it used to be like with kids 10 or 15 years ago,” says Kendrick.
#5. Don’t Smother Them
Like so many uncomfortable experiences your child will face throughout his childhood sometimes you have to let them overcome a painful set back on their own—and getting over a crush is one of those times. Offer warm, encouraging words and maybe even a hot fudge sundae, but try not to smother her and make it all better without allowing her to have her own feelings about the situation. When my kids have suffered a broken heart, I try to be supportive and a good listener. I let them take the lead and share as much or as little as they would like about the matter. Young kids are resilient and before you know it, she’ll be exploring a new hobby or making new friends and will be back to her usual self.
How have you helped your child manage a crush? Please share your thoughts in the comments section at quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy, post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT.
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All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.