"If there was smallpox in the street, we wouldn't say, 'oh, I'm too uncomfortable with that subject.' We would figure out a way to get through our discomfort, and talk to them in the ways that they need for us to talk to them," Roffman said.
What do you say to the girl who feels she has to "put out" to be popular and to please boys?
Roffman said, "You tell her, don't have sex anymore of any kind until you learn how to do it in a way that is good for you and meaningful to you and where you're making decisions based on your own terms."
Roffman says we've got to stay one step ahead of our kids.That means knowing what's going on in their lives and talking to them about it.
Milly Banos' mom, Maria, says she tries to stay one step ahead of her daughter. She's told 13-year-old Milly that she's not allowed to date, not even with a group. Milly, of course, complains about it. Milly thinks 13 is old enough to go out.
Recently, Maria read in Milly's diary that she's thinking about experimenting sexually and that played into her mom's biggest fear.
But of course she's thinking about it — she's a teenager, and she's got a boyfriend, A.J.. So, Milly is rebelling. She's dating A.J. secretly outside of school.
It's understandable that Maria wants to protect her daughter and keep a close eye on her, but Roffman said such limits may invite kids to rebel.
On the other hand, she says, it IS important to set limits … to NOT give the kids too much rope. Roffman said, "You set them in a reasonable place, don't be arbitrary, explain why you're setting them there."
If you do that, Roffman says kids WILL disobey, but they won't stray so far from the limits you set.
But, of course, to set those limits we need to talk to our kids about what's reasonable and about sex. How the heck do we do that?!!
Don’t ‘Go Psycho’
After Anya had that troubling sexual encounter last summer, she was able to respond to our Web site and tell us what happened to her. She said, "I went too far for my age."
But even though she has a good relationship with her mother she hadn't gotten up the courage to tell her. She was afraid of how her mother might react. At our urging, she told her mom, and, fortunately, Pamela reacted calmly.
She didn't "go psycho" as Anya said she had worried she might.
"Actually, I was relieved when she didn't, because it let off a lot of pressure off of me."
Roffman says Pamela did the right thing. She said kids have enough trouble dealing with their own feelings, and many kids just won't talk to their parents because they fear they'll turn every incident into a catastrophe.
"If they think they're gonna have to deal with your big time feelings, forget it. They're not gonna talk to you," Roffman said.
Still Pamela was not comfortable talking to Anya about sex.
That's no surprise to Roffman. Most adults, she finds, can hardly talk to each other explicitly about sex — even to their spouses.
And the kids don't want to talk. Andy's dad tried to bring up the subject of sex. "He's done it like once or twice, but I tried to avoid it," Andy said.
Even though we parents and kids may be embarrassed, Roffman says we have to convince our kids that can't have more freedom and responsibility until they have information.
And we have to give information in a way that doesn't make the topic even more uncomfortable. Some parents tell their kids frightening, worst-case scenario stories about sex. But Roffman said that's not the right approach either.