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Puppy Love

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

Q: My daughter is 10 years old and in fourth grade. For about 6 months she has been interested in having "cool" clothes and looking at the boys in her class. She now has a puppy love romance with another 10-year-old. She likes to call him on the phone and talk for a minute or two. She talks about him constantly. I'm glad she does talk to me though. She shows no physical signs of puberty and is really quite small and thin for her age. Should I be concerned about her puppy love?

A: I would not be overly concerned about your daughter's crush on this boy. However, it would be a mistake for you to minimize the feelings that she has toward this boy. At 10, she has some preadolescent hormones fueling this puppy love. Her feelings are very real and mirror many of the same emotional components of adults who fall in love. At this age, boys and girls are not "supposed" to play with one another as when they were younger, so one of the only ways to connect to the girl/boy you are drawn to is to turn the attraction into a relationship. Kids this age will model their first-love relationships on older kids' and adults' love relationships that they observe in real life or through the media. Although some hormones are kicking in, puppy-love relationships are not sexually driven.

While not forbidding her to make daily contact with this boy, be sure that she does not withdraw from all other social contact with others in favor of spending all her time consumed with this boy. I'd also refrain from encouraging their couple-like behavior; for example, by referring to it as "cute". Be aware that your daughter is starting to care a lot about fitting in and being considered cool by her peers. Her fixation on this boy is indeed a normal part of this stage of her childhood development. Make sure to keep that great connection that you have with her. She will need that emotional connection and support as she begins to navigate the waters of preadolescence.

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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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