DEAR ABBY: My son is 11 and, for the first time, he has a "girlfriend." I have always discouraged the children from saying they have girlfriends and boyfriends, so he has always referred to her as his "friend." Well, the other night, I heard him say, "I love you," and there were text messages on his phone from her saying it, too.
I tried to talk to him about it and explain that this is not appropriate because he's too young to really understand what love is, and he should not say it until he is older and knows what love is. He didn't respond very well and was embarrassed. I don't think I was very effective. Do you have any recommendations on how to handle this? -- SHANNON IN HOUSTON
DEAR SHANNON: I certainly do. And the first is to stop minimizing your son's feelings because you know better what he is feeling. His emotions are his own, and the more you insist they are not valid, the higher the barrier will be that you build between you. How much better it would have been had you listened to what he had to say and simply commented that along with love go responsibilities that he will come to understand as he grows older -- and that he can always tell you anything.