“Kids might cling to a crush if things are rocky at home between their parents, they’re struggling in school for the first time or something’s going on in their social circle.”
* Out your child’s crush. “One of the most dangerous things I see parents do is comment on their child’s crush in front of the child to other adults or to their child’s friends,” says Simens. Such insensitivity leads to embarrassment and undermines the confidence your child has in you. If your child can’t trust you with that sensitive information, how can he come to you with other important stuff in the future? “You want your kids to know they can come to you with questions and talk to you without being judged or made fun of,” Haen states.
* Micromanage your child’s love-life. If you know your pre-teen or teenager has a crush on someone, don’t fan the flames by suggesting, for example, that she tell that person how much she likes him. “Imposing your more adult-oriented behavior onto the situation can lead your child to go further with a crush than she was wishing or contemplating,” cautions Kendrick. This can make her feel uncomfortable.
If you’ve got a child in elementary school, however, it may be appropriate to suggest and arrange a play date with the object of your child’s affection, if your son or daughter would like that. But it’s not healthy for kids in elementary school to “date.” That sort of exclusivity with another person limits your child socially. “Kids need many options to make connections with people beyond the boy or girl they have a crush on,” says Kendrick.
* Say yes to sleepovers. “Today’s parents struggle with setting limits in general,” suggests Haen. So if your child asks to have a sleepover with her mutual crush (it happens), say no, but in a respectful way. (Sleepovers with crushes of the opposite sex, in elementary school and beyond, aren’t age appropriate.) Keep it neutral by saying something like, “It’s really nice that you like hanging out with Jimmy, but a sleepover isn’t going to take place.”
Keep in mind that when it comes to crushes, your child can be crushed by your reaction to it. No matter what happens, “It’s never instructive or healthy to belittle or shame your child about it,” Kendrick says.
Sandra Gordon is a mom of two who writes about parenting, health and nutrition. Find her at www.sandrajgordon.com.