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Parents prepare themselves for a lot of difficult and challenging situations as their children grow older - tiffs with friends, problems with teachers, even bullying to some extent. The early signs of puppy love, however, often catch many parents off guard. Being able to know how to say it’s just a little crush, as opposed to blowing it out of proportion, is key to helping your child deal with first love.

Somewhere between the first grade and adulthood, people tend to forget how early puppy love can take a hold on children. More importantly, people somehow manage to forget that this is completely normal. The truth is that the first crush is likely more challenging for adults to cope with than it is for children to get through. How the crush is expressed is often what becomes the difficult part to deal with, not just for parents, but also for other caregivers and teachers.

Puppy Love

Most children experience their first crush in the early years of elementary school or in kindergarten up to second grade or so. For the most part, these bouts of puppy love come and go rather quickly and usually without incident. The only indications are often the blushing, laughing, and concentration on that one individual as a preferred playmate . Coming up with games of house, complete with little weddings on occasion, are all well within the realm of normal. These are harmless and, for the most part, serve an important purpose: they allow children to express grown up roles as they perceive them and practice them to a small extent. When the attention then turns to another, it is not the same as an actual break up and does not carry the same weight.  With first love, the best approach is often to stay out of it, shrug, and treat it like a small crush.

Taking a hands off approach does not mean that children should not be monitored, however. There are times when clear boundaries need to be set by an adult. There is always going to be the child that wants to try and kiss, or hold hands during class. They need to know that when playing with friends there are things that need to be off limits. When explaining these boundaries to children, be clear while keeping in mind the message that needs to be sent concerning appropriate behavior with the opposite sex.

Dealing with the first crush does not need to be a big deal, but it should be treated with care. Should adult intervention into playtime be required, keep in mind how much weight the words will carry with the children. They should not be shamed or made to feel as though they are doing something wrong. They instead need to know that there are appropriate ways to behave as well as ways that are inappropriate. They need to know that they are learning, not that they have done something, said something, or felt something that is wrong. 

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