Kindergartener: “Mama, I have a boyfriend.”
Me: “Who is it?”
Me: “How do you know he is your boyfriend?”
Kindergartener: “He kissed me on the cheek.”
Me: (Raised eyebrows)“No more kisses at school. Got it?”
Valentine’s Day card exchanges at school spark conversations about lovey-dovey stuff. While I remember my childhood crush on Wally—the fastest runner in the third grade—I don’t remember what a childish crush feels like. Baby Girl’s infatuation requires conversation–but I’m not sure where to start. How do I handle my child’s first crush?
I can only compare my daughter’s feelings with how I feel when I have a crush. But I’m an adult; she’s a kid. Surely she doesn’t see her classmate as. . . hot?
My gut reaction? I don’t like the crush. It feels too early; however, I know it’s not premature. Crushing on that cutie-pie in class is developmentally on target. My mind barely whispers to myself, I don’t want to see my child as a sexual being who will eventually replace with me with a Partner. Of course, I want grandchildren someday, but I would prefer to envision a stork delivering them.
But having a relationship and getting married? That’s a LONG way off. In the meantime, I will get a grip and have a normal chat with my baby about crushes.
Crushes Are Normal
At an early age, children learn about romantic love by watching couples in their lives. In fact, they begin to practice romantic relationships in subtle ways.
Half of the children in third through fifth grade will say that they have a girlfriend or boyfriend. During this phase, kids don’t require reciprocal relationships; the object of their affection may not be aware of their romance. After fifth grade, the number of romantic relationships reported by children decreases.
Delight in the Puppy Love
My Reasonable Self appreciates the humor and delight that comes with my baby’s first crush. I won’t tease her, because she really is feeling something special; instead, I will smile in my heart. I’ll lighten up. I’ll savor her first elated facial expressions when she tells me what Cutie Pie did during class that day.
Me: “Did you play with him today during recess?”
Kindergartener: “We played gaga ball, but I didn’t get him out.”
Me: “Oh, that’s sweet. Are you planning on making him a valentine?”
I’m still worried about my baby mashing faces with some booger-picker I’ve never met. For my sanity, I’m setting some rules that I predict will evolve over time. For now, they’re good enough for kindergarten.
First, you aren’t allowed to have a boyfriend or girlfriend until after middle school. A special crush is great, but nobody gets the Boyfriend moniker.
Second, if someone likes you, be kind–even if you don’t like him back.
Third, you may only give high-fives–not kisses.
Lastly, this is not the Real Housewives; we do not chat about boyfriends and exes and whatever drama occurs.
Communicate and Validate
If I’m smart, I’ll see this crush as an opportunity to start an open dialogue about friendships. I want her to feel that I listen to her and that I don’t dismiss her. I want her to be in the habit of sharing with me what happens when she fights with friends. If I chat with her about the Crush, hopefully, she’ll keep it up when the stakes are higher later down the road.
Educate the Kids About Lovey-Dovey Stuff
This article is written for a juvenile audience and answers questions about what to do if you have a crush, what makes a healthy crush, and how to handle rejection. Articles can be a warm-up for having a discussion about lovey-dovey stuff.
Kindergartener: “I broke up with Bryce. He is my Ex now.” *Chin lifts, head tilts*.
Me: “You don’t have boyfriends or exes. Will you miss him?”
Kindergartener: “Mom, I’m fine. He was a clinger.”
Oh, my. Today kindergarten, tomorrow high school senior. I survived my child’s first crush.