Teenage crushes are usually intense but short-lived. Developmental theorist Erik Erikson identified the central goal of the teen years as identity formation. Teen crushes play a valuable role in helping the teenager develop a sense of self. They also give her practice in the skills she will need in the next phase of development, intimacy vs. isolation. Teen girls often have crushes that resemble romantic feelings but are less mature than true romance. These crushes typically cause some behaviors that seem strange to adults.
When your daughter develops a crush, it might seem that everything else in her life has gone out the window. She will likely think about her crush all the time and have trouble focusing on anything else. Many girls talk incessantly about their crush, but others prefer to keep their feelings to themselves. Doodling the person’s name in a notebook and dreamy, far-off stares are signs that your daughter might have a crush. These behaviors are normal and generally pass quickly. Unless your daughter lets her grades slip or drops out of favorite activities, just ride it out. Let her know you are available to talk, but respect her privacy. If she shows signs of giving up on the rest of her life, set appropriate boundaries for her behavior, but do not try to dissuade the crush.
While authentic love is based on who the partner actually is, crushes are based on projections and fantasies. It is common for teenage girls to invent elaborate backstories for boys they have never actually spent any time with. Although it may seem alarming for your daughter to invest so much in someone she doesn’t know, the projection is an important tool for growth. The crush provides your daughter with a way to narrow down her own thoughts and beliefs about relationships and the type of person she might like to date. Most crushes end quickly when the pair gets to know each other and discover that the real person is nothing like the fantasy.
The teen years are awkward for everyone, and many girls go through a phase of discomfort in their own skin. Adding in a crush can make even the most confident girl shy and uncomfortable. Your daughter might go out of her way to avoid the boy she likes, even changing her daily routine to ensure that they are never together. Alternately, she might approach him in a tongue-tied manner that makes real communication impossible. Some girls are highly sensitive about their crushes, blushing or even getting angry when the person’s name is mentioned. Help your daughter out with advice when asked, but avoid interfering or helping her land the guy.
Changing Look or Behavior
Teen crushes are divided into three categories, according to Dr. Carl Pickhardt. While celebrity and romantic crushes are based mostly in fantasy, identity crushes often lead to major changes in both look and behavior. In an identity crush, your daughter finds a leader or role model and sets out to emulate her. This is a normal and healthy part of the identity crisis. Get to know the friend that your child emulates. Help her sort out which behaviors feel right to her and encourage her to put together the best from several friends rather than becoming a clone of a single person.
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