Talking With Your Teen About Sex, Drugs, and Money
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.
Talking tips: In the olden days — back when you and I were hitting junior high — moms had The Talk with their daughters, and dads stammered a few sentences out to their sons, but that's ancient history. "The serious, planned conversations make my kids feel like they're in trouble or being preached at," says Anna Davis, a mother of three in Huntsville, AL. "Casual chats in the kitchen while supper is cooking tend to be the most open and effective." When her 16-year-old daughter recently learned that a friend had become pregnant, Davis used the event to reinforce the risks of unprotected sex in terms that would resonate with her daughter: "I emphasized that instead of having a carefree college experience, this girl will either live with her parents or she'll marry a guy she doesn't even really know."