In short answer, yes and no. A 10-year-old can fall in love but only to their extent of what love is. As far as what we consider falling in love, no, a 10-year-old cannot fall in love. With all the different forms of love out there, it is hard to decide whether or not a child is able to fall in love.
While this topic is partly a matter of opinion, there are facts that can prove that a child is not capable of falling in love. Often, when a child thinks he or she might be in love, it is just a simple “crush.” Sometimes a child can become infatuated with an adult in their life, such as a teacher or a neighbor. This is also just a crush.
Now, as parents, you should always teach your children what love is and the many forms love comes in. If they come home saying they are in love with their teacher or a classmate, do not dismiss it. Instead, talk to them about it.
Love is a very touchy subject, as everyone has his or her own opinions on the matter. Especially when it comes to children.
What Does It Mean to “Fall In Love?”
Before we even discuss if a child can fall in love, it is important to know exactly what it means to fall in love. This is a topic that has differentiating opinions, and that is okay. However, most people can agree on the overall meaning.
To most people, falling in love is when you finally meet a person and your feelings for them are deeper than anything you have ever felt before. They might find themselves daydreaming about the person and wanting to be near them all the time. Often times, sexual desires are thought about when a person falls in love.
More often, when someone falls in love it happens very suddenly without warning. We often describe this feeling as “love at first sight.” However, falling in love can happen over a longer period of time.
Most people will say would do anything for the person they are in love with and mean it. To most adults, and even older teenagers, falling in love can happen multiple times, but to really, truly fall in love only happens once.
However, that is to fall in love with a romantic partner. Many parents say they fell in love with their children when they first laid eyes on them. Those are two very different types of “falling in love.”
Children and Love
Growing up, we show our children we love them with hugs, kisses and just by saying “I love you” to them. We also show them through our actions and our words. The way we talk to our children and how we act towards them will help them determine what love really is.
Children hear people such as their parents or other family members say things about falling in love. They interpret that as their perception of love and then everything pr everyone they love, they “fall in love” with.
To a young child, they might feel they are “in love” because their concept of love is smaller than what ours as adults is. Their brains are not mature enough to understand falling in love as we do.
Many times, children who grow up in a healthy home with loving family members, particularly parents, a child might say they are “in love” with a cousin. Now, they are not really in love with their cousin, but they see how their parents love each other and that is their example.
Sometimes, a child might even suggest getting married to a cousin or a neighbor because they see their parents are married because they love one another. This is very normal and nothing to worry about. In fact, it’s good that a child is being raised by parents who love one another.
Young children know that they love their siblings. They are shown to love one another by parents and other family members. Some parents might even say that love is the most important thing a child needs. Researchers will agree with this, as love and nurturing help with brain development.
Children who grow up without being shown love often develop depression, anxiety, anger issues or other mental health problems later on.
Love is more than just “I love you.” It’s supporting your child too. Love is teaching them to dream big and how to reach those dreams, even if it takes a while. It’s teaching them kindness and respect and how to show that to the rest of the world.
Love and Development
Love helps to make a growing child happy and confident. Love and support actually make the child’s brain grow. Specifically the hippocampus, the area of the brain that helps with memory, learning, and responding to stress.
The brain does not stop developing until around age 25–the rational part, at least. The rational part is called the prefrontal cortex, while the emotional part is called the amygdala. Young children and teens use the emotional part of their brain because the rational part is not done developing.
This can lead to what may seem like poor life choices, but really it’s just the brain trying to make a connection between emotions and rational decisions. Because of this, young children and teenagers have a hard time knowing what “falling in love” truly is as far as what we as adults know it to be.
Love, Support and the Hippocampus
Love and support can be combined into a single word: nurturing.
Researchers have been studying how love and support affect a child’s brain development, specifically in the hippocampus. Research that was done at the Washing University School of Medicine in St. Louis by neuroscientists and child psychiatrists was one of the first to study changes in that area of the brain.
They noted that the child’s brain anatomy is linked to how nurturing his or her mother is. In their study, they did brain-imaging of children aged 7 to 10. They saw that the children who had been nurtured more had “a hippocampus almost 10 percent larger than children whose mothers were not as nurturing.”
This really helped to show how important early childhood love and nurturing is in both mentally healthy children and children with symptoms of early childhood depression.
The researchers also noted that it does not even need to be the biological mother who does the nurturing. It could be a father, grandparent, or even adoptive parents. Whoever the primary caregiver is, as long as he or she is nurturing, the hippocampus was larger than those who did not have a nurturing caregiver.
The researchers studied the hippocampus because it is such an important part of the brain. It is the main structure in the brain that involves response to things like stress, memory, and learning.
The study also said that the preschool ages is the most crucial time for this nurturing for brain development. They think it is due to “greater plasticity in the brain when kids are younger.” This would mean the brain is affected more easily during experiences earlier in life.
Infants learn relatively quickly, suddenly being more aware of their surroundings seemingly overnight. Eventually, they start to understand who people are and will show signs of jealousy. This is a normal stage of development and should not be worried about.
Once the child reaches preschool age, they start to explore their emotions more than ever before. This age they need us to teach them boundaries so as they get older they understand them. They need to learn yes from no and that they need to accept being told no.
At this age, they love to express how much they love their parents, grandparents, other family members, and even family friends.
School-age children, 6-12, start to become more independent and develop a better sense of understanding. They can feel embarrassment more easily and understand right from wrong. It is important at this stage to help set good morals and teach about proper behavior.
At this age, children often are embarrassed to admit they like someone and might act out towards that person. Explain to them that the behavior is wrong and they need to be nice regardless of how they feel.
This is also the age where children start to develop crushes on their peers. However, as discussed, they don’t understand fully what love is and because of that, they might feel like the “love” the person, but they really don’t.
Teenagers are in the midst of puberty and might give you some (or a lot of) attitude. You’ll see a lot of emotional and social changes. They might become more self-conscious and seem to shut you out. Don’t let them forget you love and care for them, but also remember to give them space.
Teenage years are when your children really start to understand love better. They understand a little better what falling in love could be, but having a hard time knowing the difference between loving someone and being in love with someone.
This a great time for you to teach them the difference, however, they will probably disregard most of what you have to say and discover it for themselves. Remember to be there for them in times of a hurting heart and remind them that it will only last a short while in the grand scheme of things.
Parent’s Role in Teaching Love
As a parent, you know you need to love, care for and support your child. You are their first teacher in everything in life, and you should try your best to stay the best role model they have. From infancy all the way through the teenage years, your children will look to you for support.
Child development specialists have learned that children are directed to experiment and learn from each experience from birth. As the parents, we need to provide as much support as possible for our children to go out and explore and learn about their environment.
At a young age, we need to give our children extra support and guidance to help them learn how to explore safely and effectively. As our children get older, we continue the support and guidance, but we reel back and allow them to learn to support themselves more and more.
It is important to closely watch our children and make sure that we are giving them enough support. If they seem to be struggling, step in and give more. Don’t allow them to struggle too much, that could lead them to believe you do not care.
As they get older, it can be tough. We need to continue to support them and show them we love them, but we also need our children to learn to struggle and overcome obstacles.
Can a Child Really Fall in Love?
As already discussed, a child cannot fall in love with another person the way adults do. Their brains are not developed enough to understand what it really means. They don’t have the maturity to fully grasp what “falling in love” is and what it all entails.
However, because there are so many different forms of love and different ways to fall in love, some might argue that a child can. From a very young age, children begin to understand what some of the types of love are, even romantic love.
Once they begin to understand romantic love, like what they see with their parents, they begin to develop little crushes on classmates. As they get a little older, the might have “boyfriends” or “girlfriends” and experience what a heartache could be like.
At a very young age, children that say they want to marry someone, like a relative or a close family friend, don’t actually understand what that means. All they know is that because they see their mom and dad married, they get to spend time with them. They say they want to marry that person because they want to be around them.
In between this time and puberty, children might start to learn the difference between disliking someone and liking them. This can make them seem “mean” when really they’re just trying to learn the difference.
At this age, love is an embarrassing concept. They might say they hate a person when really they do like them. It’s best not to pick on your children when you think they might have ‘love interest’ in someone. Picking on them could lead them to believe that love is a shameful thing.
Most children start to slowly enter puberty around 10 years old. With this, they start to experience other feelings that they didn’t before. The best thing we as parents can do is support them and explain to them what they’re feeling is normal.
Remember to help your child through all stages of life, no matter how silly it may seem. Whether it be the first heartbreak or the tenth, be there and support them. Teach them that love is real and they aren’t alone in these feelings.