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Originally published Saturday, February 11, 2012 at 2:00 PM

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Should parent help select a teen's Valentine gift?

The Parent 'Hood: Advice on how parents can assist a teen in finding an appropriate Valentine's Day gift.

Chicago Tribune

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Your teen son wants your help choosing a Valentine's gift for his girlfriend. Should you agree?

Parent advice (from our panel of staff contributors):

Heck, yeah, I'll help! Think how much inside dope I'll learn when I know how much he intends to spend, whether he's shopping at The Home Depot or Victoria's Secret, whether there's a restaurant dinner involved. It's as good as hacking into the kid's email. I'm not sure how useful my advice would be — haven't had to decipher a teenage girl's signals in a long time — but I'd certainly advise against going overboard, reminding him that anything he does this year he'll have to match/outdo next year.

— Phil Vettel

Being the parent of a just-turned teenager, I'd welcome the opportunity to bond over the new aspect of "dating" and all that it entails. Kids live their lives so publicly now — everything has to be posted online to validate the experience, it seems — and that gift will probably be broadcast far and wide. So it should strike the right chord: not too extravagant or too lovey-dovey (in this case, at least). For a 13-year-old, my inclination is to tell him to avoid the gift altogether, but if he insists, I'd suggest something simple like taking her out for ice cream.

— Seka Palikuca

Expert advice:

"This is the biggest compliment a parent could get," says Jennifer Powell-Lunder, co-author of "Teenage as a Second Language: A Parent's Guide to Becoming Bilingual" (Adams Media). "It demonstrates that your opinion does matter, even though as they get older it doesn't always feel that way."

So don't flub it.

Here's what you don't do:

Blow it off. "Don't say, 'Can we talk about this later?' " Powell-Lunder says. "Talk about it in the moment or set up an exact time to talk about it so you validate how hard this probably was for them to ask."

Act put-upon. He's not being lazy by asking for your help. He's not trying to shirk his boyfriend duties. He's simply trying not to blow it with a girl he cares about. Help the guy out and spare him the lectures on taking responsibility for his own relationships.

Go overboard with the giddy. "Be really low-key," Powell-Lunder says. "Don't make your teen regret having asked you. If you get too excited or start prying you're going to lose the kid."

Now, for what you should do:

Learn about her. "Ask him if there is anything she specifically likes — is she athletic, what's her favorite music, is she a girlie-girl?" This helps you suggest an appropriate gift, and also get a feel for what kind of girl holds your son's heart.

Rein him in. "Make it clear he shouldn't go too over the top or spend too much," says Powell-Lunder. "It's going to depend how long they've been together, but sometimes it's best to just stick with the basics — flowers, candy — so he doesn't overwhelm her."

Take him shopping. "If he asks you to go buy the gift, say, 'No, I wouldn't want to make a mistake. But I'll go with you,' " says Powell. "It's important that the gift genuinely comes from him, even if you help."

HAVE A SOLUTION? Your daughter's Facebook profile says she's "in a relationship." You've heard of no such thing. Should you ask her what's up? Email us at parenthood@tribune.com.

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