DEAR ABBY: How do you tell a young girl about sex, and what's the best way to go about telling her? My niece is 12 and hasn't had her first period yet. But she has a serious crush on an older boy, and kids grow up real fast in our neighborhood. You'd be shocked if you knew how young they are when they start fooling around.
This is a difficult subject to discuss, but I know that our talk will have to happen pretty soon. She is closer to me than to her mom. When I was growing up, the word "sex" wasn't mentioned, and one of my cousins got pregnant in her sophomore year of high school. I don't want that same mistake made again. Please help.
I heard you have a book about this. How can I get one? -- ALMOST READY IN LOUISIANA
DEAR ALMOST READY: Kids grow up fast all over these days -- not just in your neighborhood. "The talk" with your niece should have started long ago as part of an ongoing discussion because young people are maturing earlier than they did years ago, for a variety of reasons.
Because it hasn't already started happening, your niece should be told that there will be changes in her body and that they are normal. She should also be assured they are nothing to fear. You heard correctly that I publish a booklet about what teens should know about sex (and drugs) that covers a variety of important topics. Adults and parents sometimes find the subject difficult to discuss. My booklet was written to help "break the ice" and begin the discussion more easily. It can be ordered by sending your name and address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to Dear Abby Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL, 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price. It could be very helpful to you if you review it before starting the discussion with your niece so you can prepare beforehand to answer her questions or guide the conversations.
Important topics that are included are "How old must a girl be before she can get pregnant?" "How old must a boy be before he can father a child?" "What time of the month is a girl 100 percent safe?" and "Can a girl get pregnant the first time she has sex?" In addition, there is a section on various sexually transmitted diseases and what to do if you think you may have one. It is extremely important that they be treated right away, because not doing so can have lifelong consequences.
Knowledge is power, and the more information your niece has, the better she can be prepared for making the decisions that lie ahead of her. But most of all your niece needs to know that becoming a woman is a cause for celebration -- and I hope you will present that to her and make it clear.
DEAR ABBY: I have a lighted doorbell at my front door. But nine out of 10 people who come here still knock rather than use the bell. Sometimes I don't hear them, so then they'll start pounding with a lot of force until they can get my attention. They never resort to using the doorbell. Why are people so stubborn? -- AT HOME IN MELBOURNE, FLA.
DEAR AT HOME: I'm not sure it's stubbornness. They simply might not think to use it. However, I may have a solution for you. Post a sign over your doorbell that reads: PLEASE RING BELL!