Is it Puppy Love? What To Say About Your Child’s First Crush?

pawel-parentstoolshopThere is only one “First Love” in each of our lives. Do you remember yours? Although it may be far in the past, most of us can still feel the excitement of that first crush. We can even feel butterflies in our stomach just thinking about that special puppy love? We usually smile when thinking about it, even though it ended, because it wasn’t “real” love. We file it away in our memory banks with the logical level-headedness only boring old adults can attain.

So when our children experience their first crush, we recognize it as puppy love, a passing crush that most likely will end. Some of us might worry about our children getting their hopes up only to be disappointed later. A few of us might actually take steps to say or do something to try to spare our children that disappointment. Rarely, but all too often, parents might say or do something that crushes the child far more than the eventual death of the crush.

So here are the big DON’Ts:

  • Don't tease children about having a boyfriend/girlfriend — especially in front of relatives and immediate family members. Children feel shameful about having positive loving feelings when they are teased and humiliated for having them. They may close themselves off to love in the future.
  • Don't overreact and worry about it becoming “serious.” It’s highly unlikely. Nevertheless...
  • Don't tell the child you know it will pass. This minimizes the feelings the child has, which are very real and intense.
  • Don’t act like it isn't happening. From the children’s perspective this is one of the biggest events that’s happened to them so far. They are feeling loved and lovable. If parents don’t notice or care about something this big, children may conclude the parents don’t care about them.
  • Don't keep asking about the person every day. This just adds pressure for something to develop from the relationship.

Instead, here are some helpful DOs:

  • Be positive, nonchalant, and show interest.
  • Ask the child about the qualities he/she likes about the person. Comment on how those positive traits are good traits for people to have and how people often like people with those traits.
  • Show you are open to listening to the child and let the child initiate the conversation. If you haven't heard anything after a week or two, show interest by inquiring about how that person is doing. The attitude of the child's response will tell the parent whether the crush is still alive or not.
  • Often, the relationship will suddenly and almost effortlessly pass on one day. Sometimes for no reason. If, however, your child is hurt or confused about what happened, validate their feelings and try to explain it in general terms. So instead of “Johnny/Jane lost interest in you” be general, “Sometimes people can change their minds about what they like for no reason at all! It IS confusing and hard to understand!”

When we respect and honor the specialness of our children’s first loves, they are more likely to file it away in their memory banks with the same smile, butterflies and good feelings that only a first love can bring.


Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE is a second-generation parent educator and president of Parent's Toolshop® Consulting. She is the author of 100+ resources for parents and family service professionals, including her award-winning book, The Parent's Toolshop, at www.ParentsToolshop.com. Since 1980, Jody has trained parents and professionals through her dynamic presentations and served as internationally recognized parenting expert to the media worldwide. Get practical parenting resources, including more information about this topic at: http://www.parentstoolshop.com/tele/telearchive.htm

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