I'm concerned that his feelings for her don't go any further than a platonic relationship. My six siblings were all parents at a very young age and unmarried when they had their children. I've seen what their choices have meant for their lives and the lives of their kids, and I don't want the same for my son. I'm trying to be open with him and encourage casual but meaningful dialogue about relationships, but I often don't know what to say and fear I might turn him off. I don't want to make too big a deal about his relationship with this girl, or any other. I want us to develop the right parent-child relationship now so we can have a healthy relationship in his adolescence, without all the stress associated with the parent-teenager gap. Any advice would be most helpful.
Your son is six and his interest in this girl is not infused with any hormone-induced attraction that may begin to occur in preadolescence. This may be a crush, which is entirely possible, normal, and even healthy for a six-year-old to have at this stage in his social and emotional development. This may also be an intense desire for a friendship with this particular child, who just happens to be a girl. The same desires for special relationships exist at same-sex levels as well.
The questions you've asked your son have revealed your nervousness and disapproval, even though you think you may have hidden your concerns from him. Asking him whether what he feels is like the love you and your husband share is inappropriate, for several reasons. Your son's emotional and intellectual development doesn't allow him to understand the complexities of adult love. Your comparison suggests a romantic, married framework that can only confuse him and make him feel misunderstood. He may also try to model his relationship with this girl on his parents' relationship. Of course, he can't have the same kind of feelings that you and his father share in your marriage, and you shouldn't raise further questions of this kind.
At this time, all I'd suggest are casual conversations where you introduce a simple, non-emotional question about how he and his friend are doing. He might feel like this relationship has been put under a microscope and not want to share much about it with you. However, he might want to talk with you because he enjoys this intense level of personal attention from you. I wouldn't dismiss his interest in having this special friendship, nor would I give it any inordinate focus. If you think there might be something obsessive or unhealthy about your son's feelings, you might want to call the girl's parents to see what they think. Lastly, be careful not to allow you son to internalize your worries about this issue, as this can lead to an even more generalized anxiety on his part about all social relationships with girls. Thanks for writing.