Whether it’s a secret crush or a first kiss on the playground, many Circle of Moms members want to know how a mom is supposed to deal when her preschooler enters the boy/girl crazy phase of childhood. “Is it normal for my five-year-old to get a crush on a boy?” asks Emilie B.
Just five, her daughter seems to have been hit by Cupid’s Arrow, smitten by an “older guy” – an eight-year-old Cub Scout. “She talks about him all the time,” says Emilie. “If she is so crazy about boys now, what will she be like as a teenager?” Maya N. also thought crushes were reserved for the teen years – until her preschooler proclaimed his first crush. “He has a crush on a classmate and wants to buy the girl a flower and chocolate,” she says, worrying aloud whether her gut response of disapproval is appropriate. "I am confused.”
Welcome to the world of cooties and crushes, where one day your child finds the opposite sex yucky and the next day he's madly in love. Here, moms share three pieces of wisdom on handling a love-struck tot.
1. Yes, It's Normal
Preschoolers are little sponges who soak up everything their moms and dads and other adults do, says Circle of Moms member Sarah K., pointing out that some kids have “crushes” because they are role playing. "Kids this age mimic a lot of behavior that they witness. Is there an older sister, cousin or friend around that acts this way? Does she have access to television programming where boy-girl relationships are discussed? Even a lot of Disney programming explores this. My guess is that she may not fully comprehend exactly what these things actually mean.”
Jessica B. also believes that preschoolers “in love” are trying to be just like their moms and dads. “I work in a pre-school/day care center and it's normal,” she says. “We often hear ‘she's my girlfriend’ or ‘he's my boyfriend.’ My almost four-year-old likes one boy in her class and she often asks ‘will you marry me?’ They are mimicking and role playing. When role playing they play house with mom, dad and baby.”
Carolee Y. agrees. Her 2-year-old son has crushes and likes to be the center of attention with the girls in his preschool. “He's always been a ‘ladies man;’ he just flashes his dimples, and they swoon, too. It's normal, and I'm never going to tell my son that it's wrong for him to feel what he feels naturally.”
2. You Can't Stop Your Child's Feelings
First crushes, not to mention first rejections, feel very real to your three-year-old, say several Circle of Moms members, so best not to discount them. But neither should you blow a crush out of proportion, warns Kelly N. “I personally don't think it's a big deal. . . .it's very common for them to have little crushes at that age. Sometimes the more we make of it, the more the child is interested in the subject. Maybe just tell him he needs to be a grown up before he can get married, but he can be friends with the little girl until then. Talking it out can make a big difference.”
Jessica D. believes that crushes can be a sweet way for children to learn about love and compassion for others. "We will jokingly ask our son if the girl he gives hugs to at daycare is his girlfriend,” she says. "I think encouraging it, rather than discouraging it, will create a much more nurturing and caring son as he grows up.”
While not everyone agrees with Jessica that it's a good idea to encourage a crush at this age, many moms advise just letting one run its natural course. Kim S. explains: “I had my first boyfriend at five and my friend thought she was in love with him too. There's nothing you can do to stop it because children can't help feeling the way they do. It’s just a part of childhood. He will have to figure it out on his own.”
3. Be Ready to Step In If It Gets Out of Control
Some parents find that a crush at this age can become a problem for their child. Stacey O., who believes that crushes are "a normal thing at this age, also says "it doesn't hurt to be mindful of the situation." She goes on to explain that adult intervention became necessary for her 4-year-old daughter, who was friends with a "very possessive" little boy at daycare: "He wouldn't allow her to have any other friends besides himself, and wouldn't allow her to sit on the bus with anyone but him. Our daughter's teachers ended up having to separate him from my daughter because of this."
When did your child experience his or her first crush?
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