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Nine-Year-Old Propositions Boyfriend

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

Q: My nine-year-old daughter got caught writing a note to her boyfriend at school. In this note she said she wanted to have sex with him. She told me it was only a joke and she seems sorry about it. What do I do about this? I don't want to put a barrier between us so that she thinks I'm the enemy but I think I want to impress on her that this behavior is wrong.

A: I would certainly not shame your nine-year-old daughter for writing this note. I would also not be worried that she was truly interested in having sex with her elementary school boyfriend. Use this event as an opportunity to open up discussions between you and her about sex and sexuality. Ask her what she considers "having sex" and why she joked about it with her boyfriend. Ask her about how she feels about this boy and how she thinks he feels about her.

Don't dismiss her feeling as silly or puppy love. She can feel very strongly about a boy at this stage of her emotional and sexual development and if you talk about her feelings for him in a condescending manner she will probably not want to share anything further with you on this topic. Don't dwell on this event or punish her for writing the note. See it as a bridge to communicating your values and feelings about the healthy place of sex and sexuality in a young person's life. These conversations should be part of her ongoing relationship with you. Changing Bodies, Changing Lives, by Ruth Bell and It's Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris are two good books that can help you out at this time.

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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.


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