DEAR ABBY: I know you provide a booklet to help teens with questions about sex. But when should I talk to my son or give him a copy? He will turn 9 soon. I know that is young, but kids today are exposed to so much so early. -- KRISTEN IN MARYLAND
DEAR KRISTEN: You're absolutely right; they are. They also mature earlier than children of previous generations. That's why it is so important for parents -- and guardians -- to begin discussing subjects like alcohol, drugs, sex and family values well before their children start experimenting. So talk to your son now. Do not be shocked if he tells you he has already heard it all from contemporaries. If he has, ask him to tell you what he knows, because what he heard may be inaccurate, and it will give you a chance to correct any misinformation.
My booklet "What Every Teen Should Know" can help to start the conversation. It has been distributed in doctors' offices and by educators and religious leaders, as well as parents like you who may find it uncomfortable to discuss these topics with their children. 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. Before giving your son the booklet, first read it yourself. The more information you can provide, the better prepared your son will be to make informed choices in the future.