Between the ages of 10 and 13, you might notice that your son suddenly changes his opinion on how he feels about girls. Gone are the days of cooties, ushering in a new era of texting, rolled eyes and daydreams. If you think your son has his first crush, his behavior can change as he learns to deal with some seriously adult feelings and emotions -- some of which can be negative. Watch for these reactions and you can nab the ideal time to sit down with your preteen to talk about crushes, love and everything in between.
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Even if you and your son have a pretty strong relationship, girls can complicate the bond you have. Boys are sometimes embarrassed and withdrawn when dealing with a crush, usually because it's a first experience with feelings that are a lot like love. It's OK to give your son some space and avoid prying about who he's crushing on. Instead, just let him know that having a crush is totally normal. You can even talk about your first crush and how it made you feel. It can help him feel less embarrassed about his feelings and more apt to open up.
There's a degree of fantasy involved in a preteen crush. That's usually because a boy's only experience with love is through what he sees in his only family and on TV and in movies. "The first phase of a crush is really a visceral attraction that involves a lot of fantasy," therapist Sari Cooper tells TweenParent.com. Don't be alarmed if you find your preteen checking out a girl's Facebook page, doodling her name or bringing her up in conversations. He doesn't yet understand the beginnings of a real relationship and can obsess at first.
A preteen boy is looking to score attention from his crush just about any way he can. Since being romantic is basically out of the question -- what if his friends saw? -- he'll probably resort to being an antagonist instead of a protagonist. Teasing a girl that he likes or bothering her in school is one of the classic signs that he has a crush. Unfortunately, it can also get him into trouble if he's too aggressive, so pay attention to any comments that his teachers make about sudden changes in his behavior.
It's called a "crush" for a reason. As quickly as your son starts liking a girl, it will probably end. This usually is the result of feelings that are unreciprocated. Preteen boys can feel especially rejected, as though they're not good enough. The "American Medical Association Boy's Guide to Becoming a Teen" by Kate Gruenwald Pfeifer notes that preteen boys might question if they're good-looking, strong or smart enough in the face of rejection. Your son might also go from liking a girl to strongly disliking her. It's all part of the roller coaster of dealing with the adult feelings that go along with love and rejection. You might need to reassure him -- luckily, the rejection phase should be short-lived until he gets a new crush.