With Old Man Winter forcing yet another snow day today, my 7th grader will miss out on all the middle school drama surrounding Valentine’s Day. He’s been able to stay on the periphery of most of the angst, managing to move on from his own recent crush unscathed. Others have not been so lucky, like his friend who recently asked the girl he’s been pining over for months out on a ‘date'; she turned him down and he’s devastated, explaining his friend’s inability to finish that week’s Spanish homework!
While I’m happy my son feels comfortable enough to share his crushes and news of the latest adolescent happenings, I feel that 7th grade is too young for traditional ‘dating’, although I hear through multiple sources that this does happen. I’m fine with him heading out in a boy/girl group to the pizza shop after school for an hour – it’s a way for the kids to socialize in a fairly controlled setting with a defined start and end time – but one-on-one dating or boy/girl groups at someone’s home unsupervised after school is off the table at this age.
Crushes are just fine for now – it’s a way to explore feelings and learn how to deal with them, both the happiness and the disappointment. Learning to deal with rejection can be a fact of life at this age just as much as a growth spurt or a deepening voice. How do you deal with your kid’s middle school crush? Through the fog and haze of middle age, I’ve been trying to remember how I felt during middle school; here are some do’s and don’ts I’ve been employing to deal with this sensitive subject:
Keep the channels of communication open. Teach your child to be respectful of his/her own body, and let them know that even though it’s natural to be curious, feeling pressure to do something (especially if it makes them feel uncomfortable) doesn’t mean they have to act on it. If a crush isn’t mutual, let them know it’s okay to politely refuse the other person’s unwanted attention. And conversely, to graciously accept the fact if they are on the unrequited end of the crush. It’s a painful lesson, but can save a whole lot of heartache if it’s learned early on. Keep an eye (and ear) out for any behavior changes arising from a crush – learning how to keep a crush in perspective and not let it affect school work, friendships and family life is also important.
Don’t belittle or trivialize your child’s feelings – even though as adults we already know that this too shall pass, remember that they certainly don’t feel that way! And nothing will close down those channels of communication faster than your child feeling that Mom or Dad can’t possibly understand what they’re going through. Don’t ever, ever, mention a crush’s name outside the ‘circle of trust’ (mainly, that’s me) you’ve developed with your child. Discussing the identity of a crush with other parents is a tremendous no-no. I’ve been on the receiving end of such information from parents with their kid standing right there – it’s embarrassing for me, so I can just imagine how the poor kid must feel. You might think it’s cute, but I can guarantee you your kid does not – keep it zipped. I know if my son doesn’t feel safe telling me about the little things, he won’t come to me with the big things – and right now, everything is a big thing!
Well, that’s it – it may not be much, but that’s all I’ve got so far. Please feel free to share any suggestions or tips you have in the comments, and have a Happy Valentine’s Day!
Photo courtesy of flickr.com