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How to Help Your Child Survive Their First Crush

A cartoon image of a boy thinking of his first crush

Your child’s first crush is a very big deal in their life

Key takeaways:

  • It’s perfectly normal for middle school students to develop feelings for each other.

  • Stay calm and grounded.

  • Validate your child’s feelings

  • Ask questions

  • Teach your child respect

  • Beware of negative media influences

  • Give your child space

If you are a first-time parent, you might be surprised to learn your child’s first crush is often at an earlier age than you’d expect! It’s not unusual for a child’s first crush to be at age 5 or 6. The reason? Most children enter school around those ages.

As children spend most of their time with family members in their early years, their affection is directed toward their parents and siblings platonically. Once they enter school, they start spending a lot of time with their classmates. This extensive time together breeds familiarity and sometimes affection.

When your child starts middle school, things become different altogether. Your child’s body may be changing. Hormones are budding and may start raging. While your child might say he or she wants their independence more than anything, on the inside they crave nurturing and guidance.

What should you do when your middle school student has a crush? We outline simple steps you can take to help them navigate this tricky time.

Prepare yourself for crushes

No amount of denial will change what’s coming. Your child is going to have crushes in middle school and beyond so you may as well prepare yourself for it. First, start the conversation early. Establish a habit of open and honest communication with your child. They will then be more likely to talk to you when they get older.

Hormones and other biological and social factors cause growing children to pull away from their parents as they get older. But nurturing those lines of communication early on in life may help keep channels open as your child gets older.

Stay cool and think clearly

Depending on your style of parenting, your reaction might be “Aww, how cute” or an impulse to run away screaming in terror. Either reaction is not in your child’s best interest.

Your best reaction is to remain low-key. Your kid’s feelings are in flux. They are likely very confused about the whole ordeal, even if they don’t admit it. Children model the behavior of authority figures. If you freak out, so will they.

Don’t dismiss their feelings

Do you remember your first crush? How long did it last? If you are like many kids, it probably didn’t last too long. If your child hesitates to tell you about their crush, you might find out about it just as it’s ending!

But to your middle schooler, that crush may feel like the most important thing in the world. And when it ends (and it almost always will), it may feel to your child like their world is crumbling before them. You have the benefit of adult hindsight. You know this crush will likely be the first of many.

But you can’t treat your child’s crush as “no big deal.” Above all else, validate their feelings. Acknowledge what they are going through. Let your child know you are available to talk.

Ask questions

If you are lucky enough to have a child that’s comfortable with talking to you about such serious matters, ask questions. Ask them what it is about this person that they like. Is it looks, personality, or both? In many cases, your child might have a hard time explaining what it is they like about this person.

However, just the act of being asked this question is very beneficial.

As your student ponders what it is they like about their classmate, they may start to find out things about themselves. What personality traits are they drawn to? What kind of interests does this other child have that sparks an interest in yours?

Encourage your child to respect others and themselves

Were you ever told that when boys pull on a girl’s pigtails, it means the boy likes the girl? Or if a girl punches a boy, then it means she likes him? Many kids are told things that can be harmful as they get older.

Being told to accept unwanted or abusive behavior as a sign of affection can lead to serious relationship issues well into adulthood. Many adults say things to children without realizing the consequences of establishing an early pattern of abuse.

The opposite is true, too. Children need to be shown both by words and by example that every person they encounter is deserving of kindness and respect. Encourage your child to treat others how they want to be treated.

Watch out for harmful media influences

Pop culture often perpetuates harmful examples of romance. In the first Twilight movie, the primary male character, a vampire, tells the main female character that he’s dangerous. The teen girl responds by saying, “I’m not afraid.” She has a crush on the vampire and wants to be brave to be with him.

Girls being shown those kinds of messages in popular movies can shape the way they think relationships are supposed to evolve. Just like being told getting their hair pulled is a sign of affection, examples in pop culture can warp a child’s view of how romance is supposed to be.

Give your child space…until they need you

As parents, we want to shield our children from anything harmful in the world as we prepare them for life after middle school. This sometimes leads to being overprotective and trying to micromanage all aspects of their life. It’s a delicate balancing act between being there and smothering your child. When their crush ends, offer support. Your child may come home upset because the love of their life no longer feels the same way. Or maybe they never did. Your job as a parent is to be there for support but help your child realize it’s a learning experience in the road of life.

Moving forward

Sometimes the hardest part of being a parent is letting your child stumble. Crushes are part of growing up. Be there for your kid. Offer guidance and love. Try to give them perspective if things end poorly. Ultimately, your child will experience heartache at some point since they are human. Be there for them when it happens.

As your child gets older, there will be more trials and tribulations they will have to go through. If your child is having a particularly hard time adjusting, you can contact his or her teachers and the school guidance counselors at Lamad Academy for insight.

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