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Is puppy love real?

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Last week, along with back to school concerns, Sheila, a single mom, contacted me about her 11-year-old son.  She was distraught. Her 11-year-old was "in love."  Sheila had not anticipated "love" happening with her son, and told me she had expected her 9-year-old daughter to fall head over heels in love, but not her son. Sheila also told me that her son was still engaging in all of his extracurricular activities and was very responsible with doing his assignments, and was a straight-A student. Her main concern was how she should deal with his ups and downs in love. She also questioned the "realness of Puppy Love."  She wondered if she should have a man talk with him about his feelings or if she was capable to handle this as his mother.   

Although many people would agree that they expect this sort of behavior with a daughter, they may forget their son can also fall in love. Every child has the potential and emotional development to fall in love, and usually when the child is younger than 14-years-old we call it "Puppy Love." Although puppy love isn't as intense or enduring as mature love, it is real, and how parents handle it can affect their child for years to come. Puppy love can turn into real love, but real love requires both people to be more mature and prepared and responsible for the consequences of love. Parents have an incredible opportunity to open the lines of communication, and experiencing puppy love can be an incredible learning situation for you and your child. In this case, Sheila's son is showing incredible maturity in treating how he feels with respect and remaining very responsible and involved with his school activities. That says a lot about how he has been parented. Boys want the same things girls want in a relationship at the age of eleven. He wants to be valued, to be special to someone, and he wants to show that he is independent and grown up. Eleven is too young to date, but it isn't too young to be in love. Love happens; it is not planned and once it happens, the wise parent uses it as a way of teaching and expanding their relationship with their child.

Parenting tips when your child falls in puppy love.

  1. Don't ever belittle your child or make fun of his affection for a boyfriend or girlfriend. They are learning to respect girls/boys through this relationship. When they do something especially thoughtful or kind tell them how you would feel about a boy/girl who did that for you. Compliment them when they show good judgment and responsibility. That will go much further than scolding him when they don't.   
  2. Neither child can drive so that affords you the opportunity to help your children set limits. You can encourage them in regards to setting boundaries with time spent with them on the weekend or during the week. It also allows you to be in the car listening and engaging them both in conversation. If you feel their relationship is going too far or you worry in any way, talk to your child alone. If you become concerned about their dialog, talk to their parents. Boundaries provide balance; something every child needs when they are experiencing puppy love.
  3. Encourage your child to set time aside to keep up with their other relationships. There is a 99% chance that this relationship will end, and the friendship of others will help your child bounce back from this experience.
  4. Don't forget to be a parent and listen to your child, and talk to them about their feelings for this girl/boy. Boys' emotions are often overlooked or minimized as society believes only girls are emotional. In Sheila's case, it won't take long before you will see how loving this girl takes your son from zero-to-sixty in ten minutes emotionally. He will need your support that this is how love feels. Reassure him that he will feel this way about many people as he grows older. He needs your experiences and your guidance.
  5. Boys should talk to a man in regards to their hormones, their sex drive, and knowledge about their bodies as soon as their body begins to change. If you are a single mom, enlist a good friend, a brother, your son's dad, or your son's grandfather. This should be a rite of passage and should not be something your son dreads. Allow your son to reach out to a man he feels comfortable with. This will help him feel in control and also build a relationship with a male he can always trust for straight answers. You are raising a man, and men need independence to help build self-esteem. For moms, talking to girls about their changing body is a must. If there is a single dad raising a daughter, your daughter will benefit from talking to a woman with all matters relating to her body.

As for Sheila, "I think you are doing a great job at raising a sensitive boy who has the ability to love another." Give him a big hug and tell him you are proud of the way he is listening to and honoring his feelings as well as being sensitive to someone else's. -Mary Jo Rapini

Tags: Puppy Love, Parenting, Relationships, Adolescence, Emotions

 

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