Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Fourth-Graders Should Focus on School, Not Crushes

DEAR HARRIETTE: My daughter and her best friend are competing over a boy in their class. They are in the fourth grade! They compare notes about their crush and if he notices them or not. It is crazy. At first I thought it was cute, but now it worries me. I believe it is distracting them from their schoolwork. Never mind they are too young for crushes. How can I stop this? -- Nip It in the Bud, Syracuse, N.Y.

DEAR NIP IT IN THE BUD: It is not uncommon for children to have crushes at your daughter's age. Indeed, attraction can start even earlier for some children. Managing the attraction is your job, not squashing it. Cultivate a dialogue with your daughter about appropriate behavior. Teach her that it is natural to be attracted to others and that you do not always have to act on that. Tell her that competing with her friend may lead to a broken friendship.

Instead of putting so much energy into her crush, guide her to her studies. If your daughter does not already have extracurricular activities, add some. Keep her busy, engaging her mind and body with productive activities. This may help to lessen the intensity of the crush. Keep the conversation going so that you know what is going on. Enlist her teacher if you think your daughter needs support in course correction during the day. Be careful not to embarrass her, though.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I was in a really awkward situation last night. I was at an event with my boyfriend's ex. She came right over to me and introduced herself knowing full well who I am. I did not break them up, but she was with him for a long time, and I know she still has feelings for him. I was gracious but felt so uncomfortable. Other than speaking to her, is there something I should have done? She looked really sad and hurt all night. -- Undone, Shreveport, La.

DEAR UNDONE: Being cordial was wise. Any more could have been far worse. You are not a part of his relationship with her. Hopefully he really had severed ties with her before you were in his life. You may want to verify that with him so that you are clear on why she seemed so upset. Nonetheless, you cannot control her feelings.

Do not dwell on her. Do find out from your boyfriend why he thinks she seemed so sad. It is wise for you to learn his reaction and analysis of the situation.