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Boy Has Crush on Stepmother

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: What can my friend do about her 13-year-old stepson having a crush on her? She isn't sure how she should approach the situation.

A: As you might imagine, this is a delicate matter. A 13-year-old boy is certainly capable of feeling affection, love, and sexual attraction for his stepmother. The primary objective in dealing with this crush is to make certain that this boy is not made to feel rejected, abnormal, or perverted. While making sure that she does not now withhold her usual friendly, appreciative, affectionate and motherly behaviors toward her stepson, she must be careful not to engage him in any manner that might be construed by him as flirtatious or solicitous of anything other than a stepmother/stepson relationship. This might mean rethinking her frequency and intensity of physical affection toward him, how she dresses in his presence, and the more overt displays of affection/sexuality with his dad.

It might be fitting for his dad to introduce this matter, during a casual conversation they are having about other topics -- family matters, school, current events, etc. He might say something like, "You know son, I'm really happy about how you and your stepmother get along. In fact, I sort of get the impression that you might have kind of a crush on her. I can understand how if I were 13 I might end up having a crush on someone who is pretty and kind and makes everyone she sees feel good. Those are some of the things that attracted me to her. I had a crush on one of my teachers when I was your age. About 100 other seventh- and eighth-grade boys and I wanted to marry her. Then we found out that she was married and that threw a wrench into our marriage plans. It must feel sort of strange having a crush on your stepmother. It's not quite the same as having a crush on a teacher." After Dad makes such a statement that shows understanding and doesn't shame or embarrass his son, maybe there can be some talk about how the boy feels about his stepmom and his crush on her. Let's not forget that the boy might not be very inclined to surrender up the fact that he has a crush on his father's wife. What's important is that the father gets this out in the open in a very supportive, understanding way.

Your friend can't forbid her stepson from having a crush on her. However, if she does begin to feel uncomfortable about his behavior toward her and her best efforts to deflect his attentiveness don't work, she might need to sit down with him and kindly say out loud what they both know is happening and how although she is flattered by his attention that it is making her a bit uncomfortable. Since I don't know how recently she became his stepmother, how she knows that he has a crush on her, or the temperament of the boy, it's difficult for me to give more detailed advice. Maintaining a close, loving relationship with her stepson, while not fueling his crush on her, should be her goal. This is not a problem unless and until it becomes a continuing discomfort for your friend and an unnatural romantic attachment for this boy.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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