Dealing with crushes and puppy love infatuations

Dealing with Crushes and Puppy Love Infatuations

30 July 2023
Posted by: Chelsea

Many parents have experienced feelings of mild concern when they’ve noticed for the first time that their child appears to have a crush on someone else.

However, almost all such puppy love experiences are perfectly normal and not at all cause for worry.

In what follows, we’ll be talking about crushes at younger ages, typically in the age range 6-9 and pre-puberty. For older children, different considerations will apply.

Ages

Child development specialists say that most first crushes happen around the age of 6-9. Some children may never experience them before puberty, while others may have several in the same period.

Why they happen

Child psychologists are not entirely sure as to the cause of these first emotional attachments.

Some attribute them to the fact that before around 5-6 years of age, a child’s focus of emotional attention is largely inward and towards their family. However, as they start pre and early schooling, their circle of contacts and the number of people they engage with suddenly and very rapidly expands. This may lead to children over-emotionally engaging with friends and contacts, as they haven’t yet fully learned selective degrees of emotional engagement.

Others argue that most early infatuations are little more than imitative behaviour, given that relationships are constantly mentioned in books, on TV and of course, are on display in the world around them as they’re growing up.

Symptoms

Many people may recall these from their early crushes and they may vary widely. They might include:

  • mentioning the other person’s name more regularly than necessary;
  • wanting to spend a lot of time in their company – perhaps more so than would be the case with other friends;
  • constantly citing the other party as a source of knowledge and information;
  • sometimes openly stating that the other child is their “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” etc. Your child might also say that one day they’re going to marry them.

What crushes mean

There is a general consensus amongst child development experts that crushes and puppy love are not only harmless but that they’re also a normal and very good thing – in most situations.

It is your child showing that their emotional base is expanding and that they’re experimenting and learning to manage their feelings.

Sexuality

Puppy love in very young children before the onset of puberty is nothing to do with sexuality. In almost all cases, it is entirely innocent.

Although some young children may be seen kissing each other, this is usually only imitative behaviour that within certain limits is not cause for concern. Most physical behaviours with these crushes will be of the holding-hands variety.

Genders

Most experimental evidence in these areas has come from teenage children, where puberty will be an influencing factor.

Anecdotally, in younger children, boy-to-girl or girl-to-boy crushes tend to be the most common.

Crushes between girls are also moderately common with boy-to-boy crushes being seemingly rather rarer.

While many parents ask, there is no compelling evidence that crushes at this age will necessarily be an indication of future sexual orientation. Some adults report their first crushes were entirely consistent with their later sexual orientation, whereas others say there was no link at all.

Parental action

Experts advise that parents should smile at these crushes. Support them and encourage your child to speak openly about them to you. This is an important behavioural characteristic to encourage given the difficulties many children will encounter when they’re moving into adolescence and forming their first real relationships.

It’s also important not to mock or ridicule your child when they’re talking about their boyfriend or girlfriend.

It is a good idea to set some ground rules based on common sense and your values. You might want to include things such as ‘no kissing’ and anything else you feel strongly about but where possible, allow your child to continue.

Where intervention may be required

There may be some very rare cases where it will be necessary to seek specialist advice and perhaps to try and intervene with your child’s crush:

  • where a significantly older child is involved as a participant (not just as the object of a secret crush);
  • if your child is showing signs of being obsessed with the other child – such as if they’re not interested in any other activities or pastimes;
  • in situations where the other child is perceived as having a bad influence on your child in terms of encouraging negative characteristics in their development.

Fortunately, such events are very rare and puppy love is something most parents can enjoy seeing in their children!

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