How to talk to your teen about their heart-wrenching, all-consuming crush

We all had that one all-consuming, butterfly-prompting teenage crush.

Whether it was a celebrity, fictional character or classmate, we would while away the hours day-dreaming various hypothetical situations involving them and scribbling initials onto school desks.

At the time, this individual would be, quite literally, the only thing that mattered in the entire world.

It’s easy to laugh about these heart-wrenching teen crushes now, but teenagers today will go through the exact same rite of passage.

So how do you talk to your teen about it? Especially if it’s a devastating unrequited crush?

Child psychologist Dr Alison McClymont says: ‘In this fuzzy state of neurodevelopment, your teen is trying to manage their burgeoning hormones alongside a developing frontal cortex. This can make for a heady concoction of extreme emotion lability (up and down moods) and maybe some pretty impulsive behaviour. 

‘Your goal as a parent is to stand back and offer a safe space for them to return to.’

But what’s the best way to go about this? Experts share some tips below.

Acknowledge and validate their feelings

Psychologist Emma Kenny says the very first thing to do is to take your teen’s crush seriously.

She tells ‘Children don’t have bills to pay or mortgages to worry about, so when they got a crush they tend to fixate and obsess around that crush and the feelings can be so intense that they definitely reflect those feelings you have as an adult falling in love.

‘So acknowledge the intesnity of it and reassure them that it’s normal.’

This will help them know their feelings are valid.

Reassure them – but talk practically, too

Emma adds that it’s important – whatever the situation – to tell them that everything will be OK. 

She says: ‘If it comes down to them having an unrequited situation, where the person isn’t interested, reassure them that even though these intense feelings exist, over time they will get used to them, and then they will be neutralised – and in time they will find someone who reflects the attractions.

‘If, however, your child thinks a person likes them too, help them to understand that risk-taking is a part of reward – so get them to think about asking the other party out on a date or engaging with them at school or collage, to build on that relationship.

‘Give them tips on how to introduce themselves, or interesting things they can do together, and basically encourage the reality that it might lead to something exciting for them.

‘Equally, it’s important to prepare them for heartache and rejection, because young people can be really cruel and rejective. Also, children mature at different rates – so prepare them to reframe the situation in a different way.’

Explain maturity differences

Teenage boys and girls develop at different times and this can affect crushes and relationships – and result in various unrequited situations. 

Emma continues: ‘Remind them, especially if they are a girl, that their counterparts emotionally mature at a different rate – so even if they want a relationship with a boy, that doesn’t mean he might be in a mental state to reflect that maturity.

‘Help girls understand it’s not them – or that they are not attractive or fancied – it’s just that some boys aren’t thinking of relationships at the same stage and age as girls will do. Reassure them that it’s normal.’

Remind them time will help

Teen crushes can feel agonising – especially when feelings are unrocipraited. 

‘When they are struggling and they are in the depths of despair, because someone doesn’t like them, remind them that time will sort those feelings out,’ suggests Emma.

‘They won’t believe it initially – but give them some future focused feelings. Make them consider a time when they felt bad then how over time – no matter how much that negativity felt – it removed itself over a period of months, and say this will be the same.’

Respect their privacy and boundaries

Alison suggests finding a happy medium of listening and offering advice (when asked for).

Also, be sure to respect your teen’s privacy.

She adds: ‘While it is tempting to check phones and social media, you have to model respectful boundaries in order to encourage your teen to display them and expect them.

‘Give them their privacy… and frankly who wants to read teen love texts anyway.’

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