Navigating the waters of our children’s emotions can be tricky. Learning expert and award-winning writer Susan Magsamen, member of The Goddard School Educational Advisory Board, offers six tips on how to cope with your child’s first crush.
- Remember what it feels like. Our inexperienced children might feel uncomfortable, vulnerable and self-conscious about a crush. Respect this sensitivity and help them to put words to these feelings if they’re open to talking with you about it. The older they get, the less they will want to talk. Respect this, too.
- Keep lines of communication open. Try not to judge your child’s crush. It is easy to start to share your opinion—“She’s cute,” “He’s trouble,” “Be careful” and so on, mirroring your wisdom and experience. Remember it’s unlikely that this is your child’s first and only crush. They are experimenting and learning what it feels like to love others. This is important for setting boundaries and building independence. Encourage them to talk with you. Be open and be a good listener. They’re not usually looking for advice, but they may want a sounding board.
- Don’t take it personally. The fact that our children have crushes doesn’t mean they love us less. A strong relationship with a teacher, stepparent, coach or other adult in a child’s life is healthy. There’s more than enough love to go around, and children need to know they don’t have to choose who they love for fear of losing us.
- Don’t obsess over their obsession. Crushes can last a short time, even a few days, or longer. Crushes are healthy. Sometimes they are a fantasy or an escape. If they are distracting to the point of interrupting daily routines or if they become emotionally stressful, you may need to intervene. “How much is too much?” is always a question that needs to be considered. Talk with other parents about how they cope with this topic. Since your children are often getting information from many sources, it can be hard to figure out what’s appropriate. If you feel uncomfortable, listen to your instincts.
- Offer strategies. Talk to your children about what their goals are. Are they enamored but not interested in letting the crushee know? Are they feeling uncomfortable and wanting to talk about how to feel less stressed? Help them identify their feelings and develop strategies for how to move forward.
- Be there for a broken heart. I will never forget the time my son came home from school and said, “How can you love someone and they not love you back?” Unrequited love is by far the most painful. Time and empathy is the only way to heal a broken heart. “Getting back on the horse,” as we all inevitably do, might help too.