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DEAR ABBY: This is in reference to the letter from "Shannon in Houston" (6/25), the mother who thinks it's inappropriate for her 11-year-old son to tell his girlfriend he loves her. I agree with your answer, and would like to point out that love at such a young age is devoid of the ulterior motives of more mature love: It's not physical, and it's not social or money-driven. It is untainted love, love for love's sake.

Besides, children learn to love by being loved themselves. That mother must have done something right, as her young son knows how to give someone love -- a skill many people never acquire during their lifetime. -- LOVING MOM OF LOVING SONS

DEAR LOVING MOM: Point well taken. I firmly believe children are able to feel love for each other -- because I was one of them. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: You ran a letter from a mom who felt that her 11-year-old son couldn't know what love is. While it may be true for some kids, it's not true for all. Parents should let their kids develop emotionally, not belittle their feelings.

I fell in love with a boy in my class when I was about that age. Those feelings remained throughout grade school and high school. He was the first love of my life, and I'll always have special feelings for him -- even though it has been years since I last saw him.

Even if the girl doesn't turn out to be her daughter-in-law, these relationships will prepare her son to be the man he will one day become. -- CASSIE IN GRESHAM, ORE.

DEAR ABBY: That mother missed an important teaching moment, an important milestone in her son's life. She should have validated his feelings because children do feel deeply. When my daughter was in love for the first time at 13, we talked about what love means. It means wanting only the best for the other person. You care about the safety and welfare of that person and always treat him (or her) with kindness and respect. You would never encourage someone you love to do anything unlawful, dangerous or harmful. And you will know he loves you if he feels this way about you.

I repeated the same litany as she was growing up. My daughter is now 22, and still talks to me about her romances and almost everything else. -- BEEN-THERE MOM, ENGLEWOOD, FLA.

DEAR ABBY: I am now 91. You gave that mother the right advice. I wish someone had told my mother the same. She scoffed at my "puppy love," but it has endured -- just as Charles Schulz in his "Peanuts" strip never forgot his "little red-headed girl."

Eighty years have passed since I fell in love with Margaret Ruprect back in Dubuque, Iowa. I can still remember her golden hair shining in the sun and her laughter. I only got to kiss her once, but I'll never, ever forget her. If she's still living, I hope she sees this and knows I still love her. -- BOB C., ATASCADERO, CALIF.

DEAR ABBY: I'd like to address my comments to "Shannon in Houston." I am confused. What are the most frequent words you say to your child? "I love you," again and again. You show your son your love every day. But as soon as he professes love for someone outside the family, you tell him "he's too young to understand what love is."

How can that possibly be true, if he has been raised in a loving family? -- JOANN J., TAMPA, FLA.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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