Tough talks: Talking about love and sex

Looking back, I know that the crush I had on a boy on the water ski team was no more than a childhood crush. Yet, I can remember vividly how I felt at thirteen; I was convinced he was my destiny. I wrote poetry about him. I would wait and go places just to see him. I would pray at night that he might notice me.

At fourteen, I remember my first real kiss. It was a guy in my art class who came over for tutoring. After he kissed me, I knew he was my destiny; surely we would marry. I knew I was in love with him.

I didn't marry any of those crushes (thank goodness!) Yet, the emotions I felt seemed as real as any emotions I feel now. The only difference was I was younger, so I didn't have as much experience to love with.

Kids from age 8 to 18 will go through their share of loves. When parents dismiss this love as puppy love they are denying that the child has the capabilities to love in a real way. Many times this can backfire for parents. Kids will get more involved with their love or rebel to "prove" to their parents their love is real. They may begin to talk about engagement or even children in hopes to get you to validate their love.

It is important to respect a child's capability to love. By denying it, a parent does two things. One, they encourage the child to seek other methods to prove their love is real and also discourage the child from loving. If a child says to you "I'm in love" and you answer "No you're not", you are sending the message that they should not be in love. Kids need guidance in their relationships. They need to know that their feelings are valid, important and real.

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