First Comes School, Then Comes Marriage?

Image via Katie Hurley

As it turns out, my son is a bit of a hot commodity in kindergarten. I wouldn't have called it. He's aloof and introverted on a good day, and he doesn't crave tons of attention from peers, girls or boys. But he's very sweet and caring, and he always stops to help others. He's also a bit of a floater — he doesn't need a super best friend to keep him company. He just likes to play.

While I hear from the moms that his name comes up often in conversation, I'm not sure that he knows exactly how the girls feel about him — with one exception: A girl kissed him on the arm one day. It happened in a split second, and he appeared shocked in response. While he's cuddly at home, he keeps a safe distance from friends. He's not a hugger out in the world, and that interaction with that little girl provided a springboard for a conversation about how to respond to unwanted attention.

First crushes are a very normal part of childhood, but it's important to talk about boundaries and how other kids might feel.

Although it might come as a shock to hear your child discussing a marriage proposal after school, rest easy. It's common for 5- and 6-year-olds to experience affection for their classmates. They spend a lot of time with these kids. It makes sense. At this age, kids are trying to process the world around them. Where once they spent most of their time with family, now they spend more time in school and in outside activities.

How should parents handle these first-crush moments? Stay calm and set a few boundaries.

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Image via Flickr/ GoonSquadSarah

Talk about it

Instead of shutting down talk of marriage based on age and reality, talk to your child about his or her new friend. Ask your child what he or she likes about this particular person. Have your child describe the games they like to play together.

The truth is that your child is exploring relationships and how they develop. Talking about all different friendships helps your child learn to make positive choices when it comes to friends.

What if the crush isn't mutual? Talk about that, too. It's possible that your child is enamored with a friend who doesn't share the same feelings. The truth is that we can't force people to return our affection, and sometimes, we have to step back and be patient. Those are good conversations to start early and to repeat often.

{ MORE: Curious About Growth Mindset for Your Kids? Try This. }

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Image via Flickr/ Eje Gustafsson

Set boundaries

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While it might seem cute and fun that your daughter wants to hold hands and talk about marriage with a little boy in her class, it might not be that cute for the little boy in the scenario. Physical affection is generally harmless at this age, but not everyone is receptive to hugs and kisses on the cheek (or the arm).

Be sure to discuss physical boundaries with your child. It's great to play together, but kissing isn't a good idea in school. Tell your child to ask before giving a hug or holding someone's hand. If the answer is “no,” back off. No means no for girls and boys, regardless of age.

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Image via Flickr/ Gideon Tsang

Avoid teasing

Sarcasm and playful teasing are lost on this age group. They might feel embarrassed or upset — or both — in response to playful banter about love and marriage. Pay close attention to your child's cues and avoid joking about this stuff with other parents in front of your child.

If we want to raise kids who respect the feelings and needs of others, we have to respect their feelings and needs, even if we think something is harmless and cute.

Most early infatuations are quick. Kids move on easily at this age. Be there for your child to listen, talk, and help when help is requested.

{ MORE: Guess What? Babies Are Way Smarter Than Any of Us Realize }

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First Comes School, Then Comes Marriage?

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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