The differences between sexes are indeed striking. "It is more socially acceptable for a girl to admit to having a crush on a boy and to express her interest and devotion," Hagar says. "Boys with preteen crushes are probably much more likely to endure silently and from afar, while a girl can rally her troops and focus on a plan of action to get the boy she adores."Beyond Innocent
Crushes aren't relegated to peers, either. It's common for preteens to develop crushes on adults with whom they interact on a regular basis. Caldwell says there's nothing wrong with having a crush on a teacher – most preteens do at some point. This kind of crush is fine, as long as the preteen doesn't make his/her feelings known to the object of affection. Parents should be wary of any adult that crosses the line.
When a crush becomes obsessive, that's when parents should intervene. "A crush should not overtake a child's life," Caldwell says. "At this point, parents should seriously consider taking their child to a counselor or psychologist."
According to Caldwell, a crush is considered obsessive when the preteen begins to cross the line of invading someone else's privacy or life or when a parent notices that their child is losing friends or isolating himself due to his obsession.
Parents should take the crush seriously and use the time to talk about issues such as sex. "Make sure the talk is not all straight facts," Caldwell says. "Put in your opinion on love and relationships." An ongoing dialog is best. Remember that you're still teaching values to your child. "Parents should not be afraid to assert their control," Caldwell says.
Among the boundaries Caldwell suggests are telling your preteen that it's OK to spend time with this crush at gatherings and events, but it's not OK for just the two of them to spend time together – alone. That places too much emphasis on the romance and could also alienate them from friendships that are just as, if not more, important.
Invite their crush over to your home, as this sets the stage for later, when they might be dating seriously. If you make this a habit, you'll be introduced to future "friends" without having to ask. "A good rule of thumb is that preteens should go out in groups, not dates," Caldwell says. "Preteen dating encourages children to grow up too fast."
The bottom line is to let things take their course. "Don't forcefully try to prohibit a natural thing," Caldwell says. "Chances are, your tween will go behind your back in romancing the object of their crush."
Remember, it's OK – even beneficial – to have a crush. "You will never become a famous writer if you don't dream it first, and you will never have a romantic relationship if you don't also dream it first," Caldwell says.