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Most teenagers develop strong feelings for someone at some point. It may be someone within their social circle, or slightly outside it – a teacher or youth worker perhaps.
When a young person develops a teen crush, it can be very overwhelming and it might be the only thing they appear to be thinking about. In their mind, they may be planning a fictional future with this other person and anyone that tries to dismiss this plan may become a target of their dislike. Teen crushes are often combined with hormones, so what may be reasonable to them is often unrealistic for parents. Their love can intoxicate them to the point that this is all they think about and when things do not go to plan, it becomes painful.
If they’re open to talking about what’s going on for them, encourage them to do so. Don’t minimise or dismiss their feelings, as their thoughts, even though fantasy, rather than reality, can be very powerful. It is serious stuff for them, even though, as a parent you may know the crush may be a temporary infatuation and they may start thinking about relationships with someone they are keen on at school or college.
Your son or daughter will probably want to go out of their way to be liked, or even noticed, by their crush and this can lead to various behavioural changes. At this stage in their development teenagers may want to be seen as more grown up. Also, it may be likely that they are becoming more aware of their sexuality. They may think they know what their crush likes and all about their life, but in reality this often isn’t the case. Daydreaming and fantasising about someone can become an obsession and that’s why exploring how your child sees the situation, if they will let you, can be a good idea.
If, as may be very likely, your teenager is reluctant to chat about things that upset or embarrass them (as you may be too), don’t push them. Use opportunities in daily family life to bring the subject up. Soaps on TV are usually good for this. Perhaps you could watch together and then take turns at making up what happens next.
Idolisation of a member of a boy or girl band or someone else in the media is also normal at this age and some teens may feel their feelings are actual true feelings. When the celebrity leaves the band or there is some kind of change, a young person may feel genuine sorrow, sadness and hit a low point. It is important to remember that in their eyes their feelings are strong and not just a crush. When you talk to your teen about how they feel, it is crucial to handle this with sensitivity and let them know you understand their pain and are there for them to talk things through or to give them a shoulder to cry on.
The thought of your child possibly being teased or ridiculed if their friends get to hear about their crush, or rejection if they were to declare their feelings to the person in question, assuming they know them, is heart-breaking for any parent.
You may be worried they may post something on social media that will make them cringe at a later date or cause some kind of bullying. It might be a good idea to perhaps let them know that posting on social media something that is quite private might not be the best move as it may cause other issues that they do not want to deal with. If you are concerned your child may engage in sexting, which is the sending and receiving of sexual messages, images or videos, do read our advice so you can talk to them about the choices they make.
On the plus side, crushes don’t usually last long and they can be a stage on the path to relationships of a more lasting, romantic nature. Learning about their passionate feelings and sexual awakenings is all part of their transition from child to adult and a harmless crush can help to give them some awareness of the power of their emotions.