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Kids and Crushes

An infatuation can provide important lessons about love

Your child has a crush and it's amusing. Parents can get caught up in their child's infatuations in a teasing, playful way. Maybe it's because you know what it's like to have a crush on someone. But infatuations are important to understand, and they can provide a child with important lessons as she enters the world of forming loving connections with others who are outside of her family.

An infatuation involves being interested in, fascinated by, or obsessed with another person. Infatuations cause you to think about the other person a lot of the time and want the other person to feel the same way about you. As opposed to love, infatuations are based on being attracted to another person in superficial ways, such how the person looks, or what we think they can provide. Since most infatuations are developed by our fantasies, the other person becomes exactly what we need.

Infatuations are exciting. They elevate your mood and can make you happy and positive--like you're walking on air and nothing can make you feel bad. When you see the person you like, you might feel butterflies in your stomach because infatuations can make you anxious and excited. There is often a lot of time spent looking forward to something happening when you are infatuated, such as seeing or talking to that other person, and figuring out if the other person feels that same way about you.

Infatuations are not always reasonable. An infatuation allows your imagination to make someone seem just perfect. If you don't know the other person very well, and have not spent a lot of time with them, then you can imagine that they are whoever you want them to be. Experiencing a loving feeling toward another person that is created by your imagination can be just as strong as the love you feel toward someone you know very well. This can make feelings of love very confusing.

Researchers have found that deep in our brain are memories that may explain why we may have loving feelings for, or infatuations with, certain people and not others. These memories are called "implicit memories," which means that they are memories outside of our awareness, even though they still can affect our choices. The implicit memories that are formed by relationships are similar. Loving feelings toward caregivers may be connected with their specific mannerisms and personality traits that become buried memories in our brain. These qualities that attract us to other people are made up of memories that are imprinted on the limbic system of our brain-the center of our emotions.1 Thus, love and infatuations are very complicated.

A parent or mentor has an opportunity to convey lessons about love, whether the object of a child's infatuation is a pop star or a classmate. Most often a child will desire to have the kind of love and admiration for themselves that they have for the object of their infatuation. Thus, questions can be asked, such as:
What qualities does that person have that you like?
Did you ever wish that you had those qualities yourself?
What would it be like to be admired in that way?
What are your best qualities that others might admire?
Would you have to do anything different in order to admire yourself more?

As early as childhood we might seek out in a relationship exactly what we need for ourselves at the time. Perhaps that is simply the way we are built. Thus, exploring the infatuations of children can help them to recognize what they might need for themselves.

1 Lewis, T., Amini, F., & Lannon, R. (2000). A general theory of love. New York, NY: Random House.

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This blog is in no way intended as a substitute for medical or psychological counseling. If expert assistance or counseling is needed, the services of a competent professional should be sought.

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