My guess is that it wouldn’t take you long to remember one of your first childhood crushes. You know, that boy in kindergarten or elementary (hey, maybe even preschool!) that made your tummy flitter for some reason not fully understood to your immature mind?
We all had them, and that means that our children are bound to have childhood crushes of their own, too.
As parents, we know we won’t stay the center of our children’s world forever. God designed them to grow, mature, and become independent adults interested in that lifelong romantic commitment called marriage.
It’s then not uncommon for these little people that we love so dearly to have budding feelings of infatuation for another little person that they know. Conversely, you might find that someone has a crush on your son or daughter.
As parents, it’s also not uncommon to not know exactly how to handle those crushes. Tease? Joke? Ignore? Correct? Panic?
What is the best way to respond?
Especially with Valentine’s Day around the corner, I think it is important to keep some things in mind when handling childhood crushes.
What I Never Want to Do
As my husband and I have talked, we’ve agreed that we don’t feel it’s appropriate or beneficial for us to do certain things when it comes to childhood crushes.
- We don’t tease our children about a possible (or actual) crush.
- We don’t make jokes about future weddings or relationships.
- We don’t encourage a crush by commenting on another child’s physical appearance, character, strength, intelligence, or other traits and abilities.
Our children have real feelings. Though they may not fully understand them, and while we realize that a childhood crush will in all likelihood be fleeting, their feelings are very real and deserve to be treated with care.
Something like a crush could seem like a very personal and important thing to a child. If I joke or tease about something personal that my child might share with me, or that I just figure out on my own, I am not communicating trust to my child.
When my children are grown and become interested in seriously pursuing a relationship, I want to have built such a relationship of trust with them that they feel safe sharing their feelings with me because they know those feelings will be valued and respected.
As I’ve heard it said, we have to value the little things our children share with us now so that later, they share with us the big things. The little things now are big things to them.
Similarly, I don’t want to encourage a crush. As I mentioned above, I realize that a crush will be a fleeting thing the vast majority of the time. Encouraging a crush wouldn’t help my child guard his or her heart, and that’s something I want to encourage from a young age.
I also don’t want to build into the crush, only to see my child have his or her feelings hurt at a later time. Though those crushes are temporary, sometimes they end because the feelings aren’t reciprocated. I don’t want encourage unnecessary feelings when I understand more thoroughly what the results could be.
What I Hope to Do
If we don’t want to tease, joke, or encourage a crush, how then do we try to handle them?
- We want to listen with an open heart to our children as they share their feelings.
- We want to remember that crushes are often a normal part of growing up.
- We want to encourage guarded hearts and friendship.
- We want to remind them that they can pray for their future husband or wife now, because God already knows who it is!
When my son or daughter come to me to talk about a crush, I want to just let them talk. I might ask questions, but my goal is to hear from their hearts and show them that their feelings are important to me.
Remembering the normalcy of crushes is important, too. I want my child to know that there’s nothing inherently wrong with experiencing the feelings of a crush, and I need to keep it in mind myself. My child doesn’t need corrected for having a crush, but I want to guide them in how to handle those feelings.
That means that I need to gently instruct them in the importance of guarding their hearts. Clearly children are emotional beings like the rest of us, and crushes give us an opportunity to teach our children that we can’t always let our feelings rule our thinking.
Part of teaching them to guard their heart is encouraging them to look at other boys and girls as friends, and not feeding into the boyfriend/girlfriend mentality that can take a crush to a new level. Though it might seem innocent, children really aren’t mature enough to handle relationships outside of friendship and those in the family.
Finally, when a crush does happen, it offers a chance to talk about the future husband or wife that the Lord has planned for my child. I can encourage my children to pray for their future spouse and trust the Lord to bring him or her at the right time. I want them to focus on the longterm when it comes to romance, not on the present.