DEAR ABBY: Help! My daughter just turned 13, and I need to discuss the facts of life with her. I don't know where to start.
My mom told me absolutely nothing, and I know my daughter needs to be educated in a simple but very understandable way -- especially in these times. Do you still have your booklet that gives teens answers to questions on sex? I need ideas on how to approach this. -- NERVOUS MOM IN ILLINOIS
DEAR NERVOUS MOM: Because many parents find the subject of sex embarrassing, they postpone discussing it with their children. When "the talk" finally happens, it is often too late. Their child's head is filled with information received from contemporaries, and often what they've heard is inaccurate.
Today, children are maturing years earlier than they did a generation ago. It's not unusual to hear about teens engaging in adult activities at much younger ages than teens of earlier generations. That is why it's so important for parents (and guardians) to begin discussions about alcohol, drugs and family values well before their children start experimenting. My booklet, "What Every Teen Should Know," was written to help parents break the ice and get the conversation going. 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. You should review it before starting the discussion so you can prepare beforehand to answer questions or guide the conversation. My booklet provides answers to frequently asked questions, such as: How old must a girl be before she can get pregnant? Can she get pregnant the first time she has sex? What time of the month is a girl 100 percent safe? How old must a boy be before he can father a child?
Another important topic is how to avoid date rape and what to do if it happens. Included is information on contraception and sexually transmitted diseases (and how to recognize them). My booklet has been distributed in doctors' offices and used to promote discussion by educators and religious leaders, as well as parents like you who find it difficult to discuss these topics with their children.