A new book takes on these complexities and aims to help parents guide their daughters through issues of love and sexuality. It's called "Boy Crazy! Keeping Your Daughter's Feet on the Ground When Her Head is in the Clouds." Authors Giannetti and Margaret Sagarese joined The Early Show Monday to talk about some of their findings and to give a few helpful tips.
They say girls can start being boy crazy as young as 8, but that 10 or 11 is a more common age. "When you see those posters go up on the wall, the rock stars, TV hunks, then you know the roller coaster ride has begun, so hang on," Giannetti told co-anchor .
And while that ride can seem a little scary for parents, Sagarese points out it is simply developmental destiny.
"It is intense when the giggling starts and they can't stop," she said. "They start eyeing the pizza delivery boy but it's cause for celebration. I mean love is exciting. It's romantic. It's wonderful."
Among the authors' suggestions"
Talk about romance not sex
Giannetti and Sagarese remind parents that while the big 'sex talk' is important, it's also important to talk about love and romance. Parents need to help their adolescent girls understand their feelings and desires and if you only talk about sex, then your daughter might be left with thoughts of sex only. Talking about romance will help steer her away from self-defeating relationships and toward healthy ones.
"If we don't talk about love and romance along the way, they're not going to get any of that. And we want them to have that message. That it's not just about sex. It's about love and romance," said Giannetti.
Examine your own romantic love life
Be a good role model. Tweens watch the adults in their lives like hawks, say the authors, which means your own love life is under the microscope. Children learn from what they witness, so how you argue, and how you express your love are lessons your child absorbs. Set a good example in your romantic relationships and keep in mind that children between the ages of 10 and 15 still trust parents more than their friends.
"They are great at spotting hypocrisy. If you're preaching love and respect and you're treating your spouse with anger and contempt, believe me they're going to say, 'Gotcha,' " said Giannetti.
And Sagarese added, "You are the one who is going to set the blueprint for your daughter's romantic life," and pointed out how important the father is for setting an example. "That is the first man that your daughter's going to fall in love with."
Don't focus on one soul mate
Giannetti and Sagarese say it's important to help your daughter separate fantasy from reality. Children are inundated with the notion that each person has a soul mate, something not always true in real life. So it's a good idea to explain to your daughter that some people find one true love, but many have a number of special romances in the course of a life time. The authors say the soul mate idea is a fictional romantic notion and can make girls feel anxious and hopeless.
"TV shows like 'The Bachelor' and 'The Bachelorette' make us feel there's only one person out there for everyone," said Giannetti. "And it's not true. There are many boys out there for our girls. And to send them that message means that if they don't find the right person they're going to be disappointed. If they think they found the right person and lose him, they're going to think it's never going to come again."
Don't disregard a broken heart
If you remember what it felt like when your own heart was broken, keep it in mind when it happens to your daughter. These are tough times for girls, say Giannetti and Sagarese, especially the first broken heart. Help your daughter feel the feelings, but don't give her false hope about the relationship. Explain that the pain will go away and stay sensitive to the depth of your daughter's feelings, even if she's only 12.
"A broken heart hurts. And kids feel very intensely. Young adolescents have intense emotions," said Sagarese. "So you don't want to say, 'You're too young to have a broken heart.' You do want to empathize. And let them see that there's another boy around the corner."
Click here to read an excerpt from "Boy Crazy!"