DEAR ABBY: I became sexually active at an extremely young age. I know my whole life would be different, as well as my children's lives, had I just known better. I have a 4-year-old daughter, a 7-year-old son and a 12-year-old stepson. I want desperately to protect them from making the same mistakes I did. I feel like the best way to prevent this is to speak openly about sex.
The closest anyone ever came to speaking to me about sex was my grandfather (of all people!), who gave me a Dear Abby booklet that was written to inform kids about sex. Even though I was embarrassed when he gave it to me and I ran back to my room to hide, I still read the whole thing from front to back. It was interesting, but unfortunately, it was too late. I have always wished I would have been given that booklet a couple of years sooner.
This was about 15 years ago. Is there any chance you know the book I'm talking about and where I could find a few to pass on to my children? Obviously, the family around me were not comfortable speaking of sex. Please know how grateful I am even all this time later that you provided my grandfather with a way to reach out to me. -- GRATEFUL IN HOUSTON
DEAR GRATEFUL: Many parents find the subject of sex a difficult one to raise with their children, so they postpone it. As happened in your case, that discussion often comes after it is too late.
Because children are now maturing at earlier ages, these discussions should be part of an ongoing dialogue that begins before puberty. My booklet is written to help "break the ice" and start 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 would be helpful for you to review the booklet again so you can prepare beforehand to answer questions or guide the conversation.
Among the important topics included in my booklet 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?"
Also included is a section on various sexually transmitted diseases and what to do if you think you may have one. This is extremely important because STDs need to be treated right away, and not doing so can have lifelong consequences.
Knowledge is power. The more information children receive, the better they will be prepared for making intelligent, informed decisions.