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Children dating too young

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How did I get from there to dropping off my own daughter at the doorstep of romance?And was there a way to make those girl-meets-boy dramas any less heart crushing?

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D., a child and adolescent psychiatrist in Marshfield, Wisconsin."What your tween really wants to talk about are feelings—the way her heart beats faster when she thinks about seeing the boy at band practice, or how good it feels when he says hi," says Benoit.Immediately steering the conversation toward sex ed does kids a real disservice, says Elizabeth Miller, M."And they should be aware of the consequences," says Harding, "if they don't follow the established family rules." First, let your kids know you'll be checking their social media pages and browser history from time to time.It's true that much of tween romance seems to unfold over chat, says Jessica Gottlieb of Los Angeles, whose 14-year-old daughter appears to have been bitten by the love bug overnight."Tweens aren't usually that interested in sex itself," says Miller. They want to know how to approach someone they think is cute, not talk about STDs.

Most likely, they're not even thinking about sex at all—but may get freaked out because you are." Let them guide the conversation, and listen carefully to what is really being asked.

These key tips will keep everyone on the same page.

Many parents assume their tween has no interest in the opposite sex because he or she hasn't said anything about it.

"But it's actually a good thing," says Jessica, "because every few days I read her chat logs and see her conversations are mercifully innocent and appropriate." This kind of monitoring also applies to texts.

Parents may detect a problematic relationship if someone seems too controlling, constantly demanding to know a kid's whereabouts. "—won't tell you much, volume will: Lots of texts could mean he or she matters.

They may even know that kids the same age "date," but are convinced that doesn't include their son or daughter.