O: What about teenagers? How do you reach them?
Dr. Berman: I believe in asking a lot of questions: "What do you talk about with your friends?" "Are there any boys you like?" Or you might say, "I was reading this article and it was going on about rainbow parties, where different girls give a guy oral sex, and he sees how many colors of lipstick he can collect on his penis by the end of the night. And that really scared me. I understand how powerful a boy's attention can make you feel, and I want you to have all of that excitement. My hope is that you understand the risks." You talk with her about the "morning after" and feelings of shame and embarrassment if the guy blows her off, or if people are talking about her. You move her through the process rather than giving her a didactic lecture.
O: Isn't a 15-year-old girl going to roll her eyes and say, "I already know that, Mom"?
Dr. Berman: You can control a 15-year-old only so much. Sometimes the best you can do is express your fears: "I understand that you are a woman in many ways. You are old enough to make your own decisions, but here's what I'm scared of...." If you're talking about posting sexy photos on the Internet, you can say: "I see how it would be fun, and you're a beautiful girl. But there's no guarantee that the college you want to attend or a prospective employer won't google them. Those pictures are there for time immemorial."
O: What do you think about snooping around in your daughter's e-mail, MySpace page, surfing history?
Dr. Berman: As tempting as it is, it's extremely damaging if she finds out. I have three sons, and even though the oldest is only 12, my rule of thumb is: no computers in private spaces. They're in the family room, where I'm nearby, with parental controls up. That's not to say he won't go to a friend's house. And they use code words with each other, like MOS, which is "mom over shoulder." At some point you have to let go, but that means continuing to have the conversation even when they roll their eyes. And it means not being judgmental or punitive. "Tell me anything"—you make that the mantra.
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