Raising a Little Heartbreaker


Take her love life seriously. When she is wishing for a boy to call her or crushed because he's dumped her, don't dismiss this as only puppy love. Talk about the emotions that accompany falling in and out of infatuations: bliss, jealousy and despair. And explain how they change in a flash -- as in the flash of a new boy's smile.

Teach her breaking-up etiquette. When she changes her mind about a boy overnight, urge her to be careful. Explain how all suitors are sensitive to rejection. Though she need not keep dating someone who has lost her fancy, she can disengage gently. The golden rule -- do unto others -- has its place in the whirl of romance.

Ask her often: Is she having fun yet? The game of love at 12 (or 20) is full of ups and downs. Let your child know that romances are supposed to feel good and make her happy. Watch for any pattern that shows she is settling or letting herself be treated like a doormat. If a boy just makes her miserable, instruct her: "There are plenty of other fish in the sea." If she moves away from a bad situation, she is more likely to find another opportunity for happiness.

Help develop criteria for judging romantic partners. Once the "am I lovable?" question gets answered, teens move on to longer lasting relationships. They need help learning how to select good matches. Now's the time to start asking, "What do you like about Brian (or Brianna)?" Let your child examine personal standards, from beauty to personality, popularity to character. "Do you and she like doing the same things?" Champion compatibility; point out how common interests are vital in successful partnerships.


Remember, going from heartbreaker to heartbroken happens. It comes with the territory. Loving well entails skill plus trial and error. So help your child handle the hurdles -- even if it means humming "...Baby one more time."

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