DEAR HARRIETTE: My daughter is graduating from eighth grade and about to enter high school. I remember what high school was like, and I don't think she's mature enough for those experiences. I don't want her to experiment with drinking or be promiscuous, but I understand it's a part of high school culture. How do I talk to her about all the new situations she will encounter without making myself seem too overbearing? -- Mama Bear, Washington, D.C.
DEAR MAMA BEAR: I hope that you began talking to your daughter about the ins and outs of growing up long before now. For all parents who are reading, know that you should begin conversations about sex, drugs, drinking and relationships when your kids are in elementary school, well before they are likely to experiment. It is then that you can most easily plant the seeds of your family's values.
That said, I recommend that you sit down and have a candid conversation with your daughter. Ask her about her hopes and dreams for high school. Ask her also what her fears might be. Find out whether any of her friends have experimented with drinking or drugs yet. Does anyone already have a love interest? Talk to her about the fact that these things often come up in high school. Have her tell you how she might react if presented with any of those options. Pledge to her that you will be there for her as she enters this next stage in her life. Let her know that you would like to be able to support her whenever she has a question or a need.