"It seems silly to parents but is very real to kids." To bridge the gap, Saul suggests listening to your kids' conversations when they're on the phone, or when there's a group of them in the car. "Try saying, 'I heard you and your friends talking about crushes. While it's normal to want to protect your kids, experts suggest slowing down before charging into the condom lecture.
"What your tween really wants to talk about are feelings—the way her heart beats faster when she thinks about seeing the boy at band practice, or how good it feels when he says hi," says Benoit.
To a 13-year-old, a new rival for her crush's attention can be the worst thing ever. D., a child and adolescent psychiatrist in San Francisco.
"Kids want someone to hear them out and help them make sense of what they're experiencing—not to tell them it'll be over by tomorrow." For many adults who grew up with heat doodles and do-you-like-me-check-yes-or-no notes in middle school, watching their kids hook up and break up via Facebook, Twitter and text feels not only alien but scary, because it's often unsupervised.
Parents can unintentionally oversexualize the situation while undercutting healthy feelings.