Talking With Your Teen About Sex, Drugs, and Money
And take advantage of the openings your kids are sure to give you. They may not be curious about the stock market, but they're very interested in what it would take to get the latest-model iPod. To teach your teen, capitalize on the power of desire, rather than just handing over the big-ticket item du jour. Sally Jo Davis of Media, PA, couldn't afford the cost — more than $2,200 — of a foreign exchange program her daughter wanted to attend in Europe this spring. "I told her we didn't have the money for that, but we would allow her to go if she got a job and paid for it herself. She stuck with it and met her goal," says Davis. "The financial lessons she learned were as great as the cultural ones."
What to cover: Before leaving home, a teen needs to know both the big picture of finance (how to sync up spending with earning, the importance of saving) and the details (how to balance a checkbook, how to stick to a budget). For more information, visit the National Endowment for Financial Education's Website at schwabmoneywise.com.
Getting around the roadblocks: As recipients of the family entitlement program, teens are unlikely to go gladly into employment without a push. Nonetheless, making your kid earn his goals is the only way to instill both a work ethic and an ability to delay gratification. A minimum-wage job, however, may not be the answer — or, in today's economy, a realistic option. My husband and I regard school as Sam's full-time job nine months of the year, but when he's saving for a big goal, we give him the opportunity to take on some of the tasks we typically hire out — window washing and leaf mulching, say — that he can do on weekends.
Of all the awkward subjects that parents and teens need to discuss, sex is probably the most embarrassing. And yet getting it right is crucial because unprotected intercourse can lead not just to pregnancy but also to dangerous or fatal STDs. In 2004 alone, roughly 750,000 teenage girls became pregnant, and one in four teen girls already has an STD.
"Whatever your family's values, you want your child to have the information she needs to protect herself when she does become sexually active, even if that's not until marriage," says Paula Braverman, M.D., a member of the National Committee on Adolescence of the American Academy of Pediatrics. For parents who worry that telling teens about sex will encourage them to experiment, the research is reassuring: Giving kids accurate information about contraception and STDs actually delays when they have their first sexual experience, found a recent study from the CDC.