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That First Crush

The giddy feeling kids get around age 8 or so  -- for anyone from a peer to a pop star  -- is actually an important milestone: It shows they're learning about types of love that go beyond the emotions they have for family, says Glenn Joseph Kashurba, M.D., a Somerset, PA-based adolescent psychiatrist. They may seem intense, but crushes are usually innocent and fleeting. To help your child (and you) navigate puppy love:

Stay cool. Let her explain what "dating" and "boyfriend" mean to her. You may find that what she's thinking is less serious than what you're imagining.

Don't badger. Your child may not want to talk about the object of her affection, and that's okay. If she does share details, listen without lecturing. She may not confide in you again if you criticize her or poke fun!

Set limits on dates. You might say, "It's great that you and Jimmy get along, but you're too young to hang out alone. Why don't I take a group of you to the movies?"

Try a little empathy. Share a story about crushes you had and tell her that whatever happens, from first date to heartache, she'll live to tell the tale.