Episode 9: How to not freak out when your 8 year old tells you they have a crush

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Because Dr. John and Dr. Morgan are a father-daughter team, they are in a really unique position to discuss this often-overlooked area of how parents can engage with their elementary kids about their crushes… and yes, they said “elementary” kids! Dr. John’s book, How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk, is written for teens and especially adults about building healthy romantic relationships, practicing positive relationship virtues, and ultimately, choosing a life partner who is truly compatible.

However, it is amazing how many of those same concepts can be woven into meaningful conversations between parents and their kids when their child shares that either they have a crush, or someone has a crush on them. And it was these types of conversations that happened between Dr. John and Dr. Morgan when Morgan was growing up that are the genesis of many of the helpful concepts they share in this podcast.

Here are some sure ways for parents to make the most of the times when they discover that their kids a crush on another child:

my kid has a crush

1.Step out of denial and into “the know”

It is amazing how many parents are in denial that their young, innocent children form crushes on other kids. They are shocked to find out that their kids, as young as 5-6, not only are smitten with a crush, but they tell their friends about their crush, passes “love notes,” and end up spending lots of time pining away in this space. But when parents engage in conversations with their kids about “who likes who?” then a brave new world opens up for providing guidance, imparting relationship smarts, and developing character.

Here are some ways to step into the know:

  • Get involved. Look for opportunities to visit your kid’s classroom, watch your child interact with their classmates, talk with their teacher, and when they have a friend over to play, keep your ears open to what they talk about. And be accepting and receptive when you child opens up about relationships. Shut them down once and you may miss out on lots of future opportunities.
  • Practice having regular conversations about what is happening day-to-day in your child’s world. This habit of talking about “everything” in their world makes it much less obvious or awkward to bring up the topic of crushes.
  • Directly ask about “who likes who?” Approach this conversation with the assumption that kids often form crushes. Begin with other kids and their crushes. Learn the relationship networks—who is friends with whom? Who is bossy? Who is really nice? Who likes whom? This kind of conversation can open the door to the direct questions about any crushes you child has.

Here are some questions you can ask your child,

  • “Is there anyone who has ever had a crush on you?”
  • “Who have you had a crush on?”
  • “Do you have a crush on anyone now?”
  • “If you did have a crush, who would it be on?”
  • “Who is someone you wish had a crush on you?”

2. Use a crush to teach skills of respect, assertiveness, boundaries, and conscientiousness

One mom shared how her 8-year-old son had a crush on Dr. Morgan’s daughter. He wanted to give a card and gift to his crush on a special occasion but wasn’t sure what to write or give. Rather than the mom just shutting this down (he would have probably done it anyway without her knowledge), she worked with him to brainstorm what is special about the girl he liked, what gifts he thought she would like based on her preferences, and how to approach her with this gift. The “crush” became a teachable moment about how to be thoughtful, respectful, and conscientious. It is in these times of vulnerable relationship experiences that many character qualities can be shaped and developed, along with the skills of how to express those qualities in appropriate ways.

Here are some character qualities and corresponding skills to consider cultivating in your kids.

Here are some character qualities and corresponding skills to consider cultivating in your kids.

  • CONSCIENTIOUSNESS: When a child is able to think about what would make someone else happy, they are being thoughtful and conscientious. The lack of thoughtfulness is a common complaint in many marriages. But when this quality is talked about and practiced in formative years, it has a greater likelihood of continuing in adult relationships.
  • RESPECT: Discuss ways to talk with a crush, what you talk about, and the overall ways that you treat them to make them feel liked and respected. Brainstorm how to approach a crush to tell them you like them. Discuss how to handle rejection with becoming overwhelmed with anger or sadness.
  • ASSERTIVENESS & BOUNDARIES: Talk about some things that other kids do when they like a crush that your child thinks is wrong and unacceptable. This helps to define situations that they would want to handle differently. You can then help them come up with options, responses, and boundaries that they would assert.

3.Meet the family because “the apple won’t fall far from the tree”

John recalled a crush that Morgan had when she was in elementary school. As was the common practice of John and his wife, Shirley, they invited the boy and his entire family to come to their home for dinner. After they went home, Morgan was talking through the evening with her parents and sister, and she complained that even her crush was nice, his dad was really weird. Stop—another teachable moment—kids grow up and much of how they act as adults was formed in the incubator of their own family. So even though this boy might not turn out exactly like his father, it is vital to pay attention to what is happening in his home, and to consider what he will repeat, reject, and revise from his family upbringing.

Here are some aspects of the family life to inspect.

  • HOW LOVE IS EXPRESSED. How does this family show their affection for each other? Do their words match their actions? Do they affirm and validate each other? And is it with some details and descriptions or just global labels (e.g., You did great; Good job; You look nice).
  • HOW ARE EMOTIONS HANDLED? There is a mood in families… is it secure? Fun? Tense? Open? Closed? And when you get into the private world of the family then many times you see how each family member handles their anger, frustration, excitement, and other emotions.
  • HOW IS POWER DISTRIBUTED? Every family has a power distribution. This is shaped by how the parents handle their authority (rigid? overly permissive? neglectful? fair and balanced?). It is also evidenced by how parents “empower” their kids (e.g., affirm; provide or withhold; deal with disciplinary situations).
  • HOW ARE CONFLICTS HANDLED? You cannot manufacture a conflict, but when you meet families then you often have opportunity to see them more realistically. This often provides rich conversations with your own child about families and how their habits are often repeated by their kids once they grow up.
  • WHAT ARE THE ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES? The division and enforcement of responsibilities often predict how responsible child will be in adulthood. This also includes the way that responsibilities are shared, supported, and affirmed once completed.

What else is there?

To learn more, and hear about what may be necessary to maintain a relationship with someone you “agree to disagree” with make sure to listen to the full episode.

We hope you listen, subscribe, and review the podcast.  If you want to apply to be a guest on the podcast, we’d love to hear from you.

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