Tips for Teens on Surviving Tough Talks

Have some questions about boys, dating, sex? Talking to your mom about these issues might seem scary, but according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, most teens see their parents, not their friends, as the biggest influence in their sexual decision-making. So tap into your parents' wisdom -- and follow these expert tips to help you do so without dying of embarrassment.

1. Prep yourself. First decide what you're most afraid of about this talk. Is it getting a lecture? Being grounded? Or not being able to look your mom in the face? According to Dr. Roni Cohen-Sandler, clinical psychologist and author of I'm Not Mad, I Just Hate You!, once you pinpoint your fears, it fills in one of the unknowns that causes anxiety. Then figure out what you want to take away from this: advice, values, tips on what to say if someone's pressuring you, info about protection, or just someone to talk to. Being clear about your goals will help you communicate better with your mom and increase the chances of the talk going well. Still sound shady? Then write down some of your questions and ask for a private time when siblings and phone calls can't interrupt.

2. Take your time. The good news is you don't just have one shot at this. According to Cohen-Sandler, you and your parents are bound to freak out if you consider this "the big talk." But if you consider it an ongoing dialogue, as it should be, you'll become more comfortable with it over time. Knowing that you're not going to miss your one chance to ask important questions means there won't be so much pressure to get everything on the table the first time you talk.


3. Be up front about your anxiety. Acknowledging that there may be some tension tends to take the sting away, so starting off with something like, "I feel kind of funny asking you this, but ..." reminds your mom that she used to be a teenage girl, too; she can probably relate to whatever you're feeling. You can also take the edge off by putting your mom in your shoes. Cohen-Sandler suggests you to ask her something like, "Could you talk to your mom about this stuff when you were my age? Were you embarrassed, too?" It'll help her remember what it's like to be the one with all the questions instead of all the answers.

4. Don't be too graphic. Obviously, you're not going for shock value here, so think about the language you use; it could save you and your mom from some serious blushing. Define things such as "hooked up" so she's not thinking "naked on the floor at a party" when you meant "making out at a friend's house." And go for technical terms when you can, says Cohen-Sandler. It's a little easier on your mom's ears. Remember, you're not the only one winging it here!

5. Think of what you'll get out of it. Let's face it, sex is more than just a physical act. It's also an expression of yourself -- how you feel about yourself as a young woman, and how you expect to be treated in relationships. Getting helpful info from someone who knows what she's talking about is totally worth a little awkward silence. Don't let embarrassment be the reason you pass up the great opportunity to get some advice about this important topic!


Before you use these tips -- especially if you have any questions, nervousness, or you just need a little support -- talk to other moms and teens about it on the Moms and Teens Connect message board. And after you've had this discussion -- please let us know how it went!

• For more teen content, visit
Five points that mom MUST cover when having "The Talk"
Test yourself with the Talking to Kids about Sex -- Did You Do It Right? Quiz
Take Your Mom Online: Moms and Teens Connect

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