April 13, 2009 -- Having "the sex talk" with your kids is one of the most dreaded moments in parenthood, but according to a new survey by Oprah's O magazine and Seventeen magazine, it's also one of the most important.
The magazines partnered to survey 1,122 girls between the ages of 15 and 22, and 1,098 mothers who have daughters that age to investigate the daughter-mother communication gap.
They found that mothers still aren't talking explicitly enough to their daughters about sex, but for those who do, the discussion can have a major impact. Teens that have had "the talk" are half as likely to get pregnant, are more likely to practice safe sex and have fewer regrets about sex.
O magazine editor-at-large Gayle King and Seventeen magazine editor-in-chief Ann Shoket joined "Good Morning America" to help dissect the survey's findings and offer some tips for mothers preparing to bravely take on the talk.
"The payoff [of 'the talk'] is huge," for answering the girls' questions Shoket said. "How do I deal with the after affects? How do I know if thise guy is using me?... How do I deal with all these feelings?"
"They're looking to their friends and the internet," King agreed. "No one is really helping them."
Bridging the Communication Gap
Interestingly, the survey revealed a possible disconnect between mothers and daughters about whether they've even had the talk. Ninety percent of mothers said they have had the sex talk with their daughters, but only 51 percent of the girls who responded said they have had the talk.
When it's clear that the talk did actually occur, more than a fourth of the girls said it made them delay sex and practice safe sex.
More than three-quarters of the girls, however, said they have had sex without a condom, and more than half of those girls lied or hid facts about their sex lives from their mothers.
One-third of girls 15 to 18 years old said in the survey that they have had oral sex, about double the number the mothers said they knew about or even suspected.
But fear of the talk is not restricted to the newest generation; three-quarters of the moms in the survey said they never had the talk with their own mothers either.
"My mother didn't even tell me about my period," King said. "When it came, I thought I was dying. Most women of my generation, no one ever told us. I thought I had the talk, but I really didn't."
Tips for Taking on 'The Talk'
Study up on sex.
Stay calm and don't lecture.
Minimize eye contact.
Don't actually say "the talk." It will make them shut down.
For Young Women:
Bring up the subject casually.
Use movies or television as ice-breakers.
Calm your mother's fears.
Be sure to discuss birth control.
Don't be afraid to ask uncomfortable questions.