How Young Is Too Young For A First Crush?

First crushes may be embarrassing, but they help you learn about love at an early age

When I wrote The Truth (I'm a girl, I'm smart and I know everything) with the purpose of building self-esteem in girls and tweens and also helping women get back to their childhood wisdom and fun loving sides, a few women complained that I shouldn't have started out with the girl having a crush on the new boy in class.  After all, she was only a kid!  Their complaints surprised me as I had actually fallen in love at 9.  At least it felt that way!  And I assumed many others had also felt those early passionate feelings of a crush.

Because I am a psychologist and interested in human beings at the research and personal levels, I decided to check my premise out further.  So whenever I run a workshop or a group, I will ask who had a crush when they were growing up.  Guess what?  Just about everyone has.  Stories include a first crush at age 5 for a little boy in class who came to school wearing nail polish, a 10-year-old hiding in the bushes to watch her crush walk by, and a handsome fellow who lived in the same apartment building in Hungary as the shy girl who secretly fell in love with him and left Budapest at 15.  In her late 50's she learned that he had a secret crush on her!

Just about everyone remembers the names and details of our first crushes.  And yes, most of us have more than one.  I certainly did.  For me there was Paul and then Bob. I handled Paul in secret, heart beating fast for three years when I saw him, until I grew five inches taller than he. I talked my head off about Bob, at least to my mother. How kind and generous of spirit my mother must have been, to hear a daily report for almost a year as to what Bob wore and who he talked to on the school bus.  Certainly not me, as I'm not sure he even knew I existed until the year was almost over. And she never tired of driving me by his house if we were on our way somewhere.  There might have been a slightly faster route, but she understood how seriously I took that crush.

Yes, when we are young, love is in the air!  Why? One reason is discussed by Helen Fisher, anthropologist, and expert on the biology of love.  Simply put, the drive for love is extremely strong, almost as strong as the drive for thirst.  So given that fact, why wouldn't we experience crushes at an early age?  Just because we live in a modern society where typically people grow up before they consider a mate, doesn't mean the urge isn't there many years earlier.  Of course, when I had my first crush it was ill defined.  I imagined that Paul might walk hand in hand with me home from school.  Or look at me in the classroom.  That was about it.  I wasn't thinking about building a life together.  I was responding to new feelings that pushed through me and imagining scenes that fit being 10 or 11.

So let's be kind to our girls and ourselves about love.  It is natural, it is mandatory for the species to carry on.  It is our biology at work.  We need to help our kids live with and understand early feelings of arousal and attachment. Best way to do that is to be honest.  Share your own early crushes with your kids.  They usually make great stories.  I will share my great story of staring at the wall, over the head of Paul, while finally dancing with him at our school dance. Also help your kids understand that lots of our feelings, including emotions and even feelings of arousal, we have to live with.  Some feelings fade, some stay strong.  Family feelings of attachment can stay and probably should forever.  Other passionate feelings of arousal may come and go.  That's okay.  We make our way in life, sifting through our feelings and decisions as we move along.

Let's have some fun.  What is the story of your first crush?

Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein, Positive Psychologist and Happiness Coach

Websites: Enchanted Self, TheTruthforgirls, Next Year in Jerusalem, Authors Speaking, Positive Psychology for Women
Latest Books: The Truth (I'm a girl, I'm smart and I know everything), Next Year in Jerusalem: Romance, Mystery & Spiritual Awakening
Youtube: Enchanted Self, The Truth for Girls, Next Year in Jerusalem

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