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How to Handle Your Child's First Crush
A child's first love is a pivotal step. Follow these dos and doníts to both help and avoid conflicts within your family.


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Creating a positive experience for a child's first love will make them more likely to see love in a positive manner in the future.


There 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 wasnít "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.

Here are the big don'ts when dealing with your child's first crush:
1. Don't tease children about having a boyfriend/girlfriendóespecially 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.

2. Don't overreact and worry about it becoming "serious." Itís highly unlikely. Nevertheless...

3. Don't tell the child you know it will pass. This minimizes the feelings the child has, which are very real and intense.

4. Donít act like it isn't happening. From the childrenís perspective this is one of the biggest events thatís happened to them so far. They are feeling loved and lovable. If parents donít notice or care about something this big, children may conclude their parents donít care about them.

5. 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:
1. Be positive, nonchalant and show interest.

2. Ask your 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.

3. 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.

4. 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 childrenís 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, founder of The Family Network, award-winning author of "The Parents Toolshop" book and President of Parents Toolshop Consulting. She has 25+ years experience as a workshop trainer and parenting expert to the media worldwide, including Parents magazine and the Ident-a-Kid television series. She currently serves as the online parenting expert for Cox Ohio Publishingís mom-to-mom websites and also serves on the Advisory Board of the National Effective Parenting Initiative.

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