Use Twitter to Get Quality Customer Service

Written on June 10, 2014 at 7:00 am , by

There I was at the airport, in a long line of jet-lagged travelers that was devolving into an angry mob before my eyes. All outbound flights had been grounded by weather, so none of us were going anywhere in the near future—and the customer service reps were starting to come unglued. I called my husband, Dan, to warn him I was stuck before dialing United Airlines to try to bypass the chaos and rebook my flight home. Dan hit Twitter. While I waited on hold, he engaged in a productive back-and-forth with @united, learning that my best option was to book a hotel and accept a voucher for a future flight. Dan texted me this update and I snagged a room lightning-fast, before they were all gone.

Using Twitter to get quick, courteous customer service is one of the best reasons to maintain an account on the social media site. Because these interactions unfold in a public forum, companies know their reputation is always on the line. Therefore, they tend to staff their Twitter accounts with reps trained to listen attentively and resolve issues on the double. Lately, I’ve been seeing more and more users Tweet complaints and get results—even possibly incite change.

For instance, I watched a Safeway (@Safeway) customer post that an advertised sale price was no longer ringing up at her local store and get a reply the next morning honoring the lower price. A Chico’s (@Chicos) shopper who complained that shipping to Canada cost too much was promised that the policy would be reviewed. A Whole Foods (@WholeFoods) customer who expressed distaste for her store’s plastic take-out containers was informed that packaging decisions are made by local management. Of course, people also visit the Twittersphere to praise products and businesses (which is a nice thing to do). But more often, it’s the best way to circumvent lengthy hold times. Case in point: When General Motors (@GM) recalled cars because of a faulty ignition switch earlier this year, one woman bypassed phone support by Tweeting instead, and her problem was soon addressed. Bottom line: These days, if you have something to say to a company, Twitter is the smartest place to do so.


Speak Up!

Twitter communications director Rachael Horwitz sums it up perfectly: “Twitter is public, so brands are listening.” Keep her advice in mind when you try Tweeting for service satisfaction.

Address the right audience. You post a Tweet to a company by using their Twitter handle, which always starts with @. To find the correct handle, type the name in the search field on the home page.

Be concise. Remember that you only have 140 characters to get your message across. Composing a Tweet is the modern equivalent of sending a telegram. Skip any unnecessary preamble. Include only key details.

Follow along. While Tweets are public, there is an option to continue a conversation privately within the Twitter platform, through the Direct Message (DM) function. In order to do so, both parties must be following each other. If a company’s customer service rep asks you to follow them, this is likely why. (It’s often a good sign.)

Don’t wear egg on your face. If you set up a new Twitter account, be aware that the default icon is an egg, which displays in your profile and Tweets. To avoid screaming newbie, change that icon right away. “It doesn’t really matter whether you have a lot of followers,” says Horwitz. “But companies are more inclined to take tweets seriously from someone who seems engaged with Twitter. So you should create a profile to convey that.”

Christina Tynan-Wood has been covering technology since the dawn of the Internet and currently writes the Family Tech column for Family Circle. You can find more advice about buying and using technology at

Categories: Family & Technology, Momster | Tags:
No Comments

You Make It, We Post It!

Written on June 9, 2014 at 4:19 pm , by

It’s never too hot out for a warm bowl of soup. Instagram user @homecooked_food followed that motto when she made our Lentil Soup with Beef, a dish she said was out of her comfort zone as a cook. The easy slow cooker meal is perfect for a weeknight meal—and if you’re lucky, leftovers! Find more of our delicious soups here.


Want to be featured here as next week’s chef?

Here’s how: Make a Family Circle recipe, take a photo and share it on Instagram by tagging @FamilyCircleMag and #FCMADEIT.


4 Memorable Prom Moments That Went Viral This Year

Written on June 6, 2014 at 2:59 pm , by

Prom isn’t only about the glitz and glam of whose wearing what anymore. It’s also about making a viral statement in a memorable way. 2014 prom season showed that your teen isn’t necessarily as superficial and out of touch as you may think.  From teens uniting to support a friend with cancer to one bold high schooler getting the attention of Vice President Joe Biden, the Internet was constantly buzzing about teens and prom.


Teen takes great-grandmother to prom

19-year-old Austin Dennison had the Internet singing his praises when this video went viral. The Ohio teen deiced to take his 89-year-old great-grandmother, Delores, as his date to prom. Delores, who recently had a heart attack and stroke, was never asked to prom. Austin even had the DJ play Frank Sinatra’s “I Love the Kisses of Delores,”—a song his great-grandfather used to sing to her—as their first dance.  How sweet!


Virginia teens unite to support a friend with cancer 

Seventeen teens of Osbourn Park High School in Virginia made a powerful and heartwarming statement when everyone decided to wear protective masks in support of Jared Hill. Jared was diagnosed with testicular cancer last September, and is currently undergoing chemotherapy. His doctor told him that if he wanted to take his girlfriend to prom, he would have to wear a protective mask. So, everyone in their prom group did the same. This photo captures the memorial night that unified everyone.


Classmates of slain teen pay tribute 

After the lost of 16-year-old Maren Sanchez, who was stabbed to death in the hallway of a Connecticut high school, classmates decided to pay tribute to the beloved teen by dressing up and bringing out the gown she would have worn to their junior prom. The group photo taken was a bit controversial, with some saying it was inappropriate. But the sentimental gesture was felt around the world. The school even postponed the dance, but Sanchez was named prom queen.


Teen asks Joe Biden to Prom

When you want something go get it, right? That’s exactly what 18-year-old Talia Maselli did. The Newington High School senior mailed a handwritten note seven months ago, requesting that Vice President Joe Biden escort her to the dance. Her note was very straightforward: “I could only tolerate a high school dance if I was to be escorted by the most delightful man in America.” Of course, she didn’t expect to hear back. But to her surprise, Biden did eventually respond the day before the prom, with a note and a corsage delivered to Maselli’s home. What a way to get the attention of someone!




Categories: Momster | Tags: ,

Explore These Savings

Written on June 6, 2014 at 10:28 am , by

Warm weather and the end of school are the perfect motivation for quality family time outside. Score deals in honor of National Great Outdoors Month.

• Get outfitted in sturdy athletic shoes, 60% OFF at Amazon, before heading out on a hike.

• Stock up with 15% OFF recreation gear, clothing, tents and more at outdoors megastore REI using code RTVGP.

• Avoid sunburn with $1 OFF Coppertone Sunscreen.

• Allergy season is in high gear—stay healthy with a FREE Sample of Zarbee’s All Natural Seasonal Relief.

• Sleep under the stars in Target Sleeping Bags at a 10% discount.

• Things can get messy in nature—save $1 OFF Two Purell products.

• “Like” Nexcare’s Facebook page and you’ll receive a FREE Sample of Bandages, handy for outdoor cuts and scrapes.

• Keep fleas, ticks and mosquitoes at bay with a range of products available for 15% OFF at PetSmart.

Why Age Is Really Just a Number…at 21

Written on June 5, 2014 at 9:00 am , by

In a few weeks, the youngest of my four daughters will reach a milestone. She will officially be an adult, as there will be 21 candles on a very delicious cake. Yes, her ticket will be officially punched into adulthood.

Adulthood. It’s hard to believe that a birthday can mark critical issues like responsibility, employment security (if you have a job), housing status (What? You still live at home?) and the pressure to finally be in a serious relationship. In other words, there is a general emphasis on just pulling one’s life together.

Heavy stuff…but as a practicing adult I know that there is plenty of time to grow up. Growing up is a process that is not just marked by a numerical value. Growing up is a mindset.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the parameters of growing up were carded for, much like liquor sales? How cool would it be if delis and minimarts had a calendar marking the current date and the statement: “If you are still immature and born before this date ____, practice self-reflection or ask a real adult to share their experiences and most significant life lessons with you.”

What if the ritual of turning 21 was not focused on being able to drink legally but tapped into a person’s ability to help others, practice respect and goodwill, and simply focus on making the world a better place to live and coexist?

What if instead of honing in on a chronological age to symbolize the pinnacle of physical maturity and emotional growth, we understood that things like wisdom, self-understanding and self-acceptance are not easily quantifiable but can be gained throughout our life span with a willingness to do so?

In many ways, the over-celebration of adulthood or being “legal” minimizes the true benefit of simply growing older and growing up. The real benefit of growing up is being able to appreciate your own successes and failures, to find the silver lining in disappointment and to have gratitude for joyful experiences. Completeness does not arise from turning a certain age on a certain day. Happiness and self-satisfaction can be present throughout our life span.

If we provide our young adults with an accurate representation of growing old and the recognition that aging is not a disease state but a normal process that holds both real beauty and potential at every age, as well as a blueprint for finding them, then perhaps every 21-year-old will have much more to truly celebrate.

What emotional accomplishments do you hope your child will have achieved by the age of 21? Post a comment and share.

Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, a mother of four, is a psychiatrist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @drjanetRead more of her posts here.

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at


4th of July Gear For Your Pets

Written on June 5, 2014 at 12:00 am , by

By Cristina Corvino

Red, white and blue fur-ever. Let your pets in on the patriotic fun with a simple accessory or an all-out Uncle Sam costume. They’ll be dressed in their Fourth-of-July best!

Pose your pets in their finest red, white and blue gear and share the snapshots with us on social media, using the hashtag #FCPETS.


Categories: Momster | Tags:

How I Finally Learned to Stop the Roller Coaster Dieting

Written on June 4, 2014 at 3:30 pm , by

Family Circle editor Jonna Gallo Weppler shares how a memorable experience at the Biggest Loser Resort in Chicago helped her get off the weight-loss roller coaster for good. 


Let’s just say that if I had a dollar for every pound I’ve lost and regained over my adult life, I’d have plenty of cash for the proverbial rainy day. But after two decades on the roller coaster, I was weary of the ride. My always-messy closet, stuffed with clothes to fit my body anywhere along a 30-pound spectrum, was bumming me out. And more important, as a mom wading into my 40s, not facing the potential health implications of being overweight felt increasingly irresponsible. Anxiety about high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and heart disease gnawed at my brain. My son and daughter—9 and 6— are my world, and I want to be around for them for as long as possible. Bottom line: It was time to break the cycle. So this is the story of how I finally learned to stop dieting.

In February 2013 I loaded up a suitcase with T-shirts, sweats, socks, sneakers and every sports bra I owned, bound for the Biggest Loser Resort Niagara. My hope was that a week at a hard- core fitness camp would jump-start some weight loss and put the brakes on two decades of yo-yo dieting. (Click here for that story.) It was the first time I’d been away from my kids (then 8 and 5) for more than 24 hours, and initially I was distracted, worried, like a fish out of water.

Soon though, that anxiety gave way to what can only be described as euphoria, courtesy of mega endorphins from the workouts and the fact that I was relieved of all household to-do’s—no cooking, cleaning, homework-checking. It was awesome. But in hindsight, I was living a little too much in the moment and not focusing on how I would lose weight and live healthfully at home. The trainers talked about it—a lot—but instead of truly listening, I was reveling in my freedom from everyday responsibilities. Yes, even exercising 5 hours a day, it felt like a luxury vacation. Despite arriving home optimistic, after a month or two, I was back to my old eating habits. As for exercise, it was sporadic. At best.

In the end, I was disappointed that I didn’t make more of that stay. So when I was unexpectedly offered a chance to check out the newest Biggest Loser Resort, in Chicago, I went for it—vowing that instead of letting history repeat itself, I’d come away with doable long- term strategies.

Going in with that mind-set made all the difference. Thanks to the guidance from BLR Chicago’s first-rate trainers and staff, I’ve made more than a few changes in my day-to-day. Some are surprisingly easy and cheap. Others require more commitment and cash. Combined, they’ve helped me take off 10 pounds and counting at press time, and keep to a reasonably consistent exercise schedule. If you too have had it up to here with dieting, by all means benefit from my hard-won experience.

Little Changes, Big Result

Wake up, drink up. I’d heard downing lots of H20 is a must for weight loss a million times. Unfortunately, I don’t like water, so this advice went in one ear and out the other. A trainer suggested I drink a big glassful before doing anything else in the morning. This single new habit has upped my overall consumption considerably and makes me feel like I’m starting the day on a positive note. And since I’m not fully awake, I find the water less objectionable. I still enjoy an a.m. java, but not first thing. New ritual: Stumble out of bed, plug in coffee, drink a glass of water, then carry on as usual.

Get serious about exercise. My fitness plan hinged on working out at night, “right after everything at home is squared away.” Despite good intentions, it rarely happened. The earliest I ever achieved “squared away” status was around 9 p.m. Exercise, after a nonstop 14-hour day? Yeah, right. At Biggest Loser Chicago, there’s a mandatory cardio class at 6 every morning. Sounds tough, and it was initially. But then it dawned on me—the beauty of that hour is that nothing is likely to get in the way. Result: Twice-weekly 6 a.m. workouts. In my wildest dreams I would not have imagined forcing myself out of bed at that hour for a sweat session. Which is not to say it’s easy—truth be told, some days I have to drag myself out from under the covers. And by 9 that night, I’m totally beat. Even so, the major mental lift I get from crossing exercise off my list first thing is worth the effort.

Crunch the numbers. Math is not my strong suit, but sustainable weight loss requires reading food labels and doing basic calculations. The Biggest Loser healthy eating prescription calls for a 30/30/40 split of daily calories among protein, fat and carbs. It also suggests 25 grams of fiber per day for women, less than 2,400 milligrams of sodium and water, water, water throughout the day—though not so much during meals, because it can interfere with digestive enzymes doing their thing. Realistically, aim for a 90/10 split—meaning 90% of the time you’re eating nutritionally sound, balanced meals. The remaining 10% is flexible, for special occasions and indulging cravings to prevent feelings of deprivation.

Hit the hay sooner, not later. As a working mom, it’s hard to resist the lure of staying up till the wee hours in order to get stuff done. The house is quiet, and there’s always a floor to sweep, laundry to fold, papers to sort. In a session at BLRC, I experienced this aha moment: The later I putter, the likelier I am to end up in the pantry, foraging for sweets. Not out of hunger, but from a mix of boredom and a sense of entitlement. After all, if I’m up this late, surely I deserve a treat. My nights now consist of a few reasonably quick tasks, then retreating to bed (far from the kitchen) with a book or magazine until lights-out.

Train for less. Nobody will kick your butt better than a personal trainer, but the cost can be tough to stomach. Make it more affordable by recruiting a couple of like-minded friends, then finding a fitness pro willing to train you together. This suggestion has been a boon for me and two buddies—we do new moves each week under trainer John Barry’s watchful eye, but at a third of the price of a session. And by agreeing to pay our share regardless, we hold one another accountable to show up.

Short-Circuit a sugar rush. Cake, cookies, candy, ice cream. Yes, please! My brain and sweet tooth duke it out often, and usually my sweet tooth wins. Unfortunately, a few bites of something sugary can often snowball into blowing off an entire day of otherwise healthy eating. BLRC nutritionist Jennifer Vimbor’s suggested fix is a protein-and-carb combo. Three easy options: 1 to 2 ounces of turkey breast on a slice of whole-grain bread, plain Greek yogurt with a serving of fruit or 1/3 to 1/2 cup of high-fiber cereal, or tuna with a few whole-grain crackers. These easy-do pairings quickly stabilize blood sugar and provide that little pause you need to take a breath, refocus and get back on track (see more Biggest Loser recipes).

Look past the scale. When the number isn’t moving downward quickly enough, it’s all too tempting to throw in the towel—or munch miserably through half a box of doughnuts. At BLRC, it was ingrained in my brain to make a conscious effort to seek other tangible signs of progress. Clothes getting noticeably looser, for instance, or being able to do more reps of a challenging exercise can speak just as loudly as the number on the scale. I just have to listen.

Wear a tracker. Even as activity monitors became increasingly popular, I resisted. (In retrospect, I’m sure I just didn’t want inarguable proof of how little I was moving some days.) BLRC trainers are big advocates of the information and accountability these devices provide, and I finally caved. On nights that my number of steps taken is pathetic (like, sub-4,000), I grab my iPod and go for a walk after my husband gets home. There are tons of options on the market. Personally, I like the sleek look and functionality of the waterproof Misfit Wearables Shine (, $120). The leather band is an awesome upgrade, and they make socks, a necklace and a T-shirt that house the device as an alternative to wearing it on your wrist. (See how we rated a variety of fitness trackers at

Resist “Magic Monday” syndrome. How tempting it is to say, “I’ll start over on Monday.” It’s the first day of the work week—seems ideal,  right? Wrong. Any day is good to start (or recommit to) eating well and exercising. Don’t let one junk-food-laden party or skipped workout derail you for days. Think of it this way: If your car suddenly started skidding, you wouldn’t wait until Monday to do something—you’d take corrective action right away. Apply that principle here. As soon as you perceive a skid, grasp your mental steering wheel firmly with both hands and turn decisively in the direction you want to go.


Chicago is the latest addition to the roster of Biggest Loser Resorts around the US. The boot-camp-style program runs within the Hilton Chicago/Indian Lakes Resort, which boasts indoor and outdoor pools, a gorgeous golf course, a luxury spa and more. For details and rates, go to

Categories: Momster | Tags:

You Make It, We Post It!

Written on June 2, 2014 at 3:25 pm , by

June’s the perfect time to fire up your grill for burgers! Instagram user @mekwahoo made our Spicy Chipotle Burgers featuring chipotles, adobo, cilantro, onion and garlic in the patties. Top them with smoked mozzarella, tomato, cilantro and Chipotle Sour Cream for a summer meal with a kick. Get 10 delicious slider recipes here.


Want to be featured here as next week’s chef?

Here’s how: Make a Family Circle recipe, take a photo and share it on Instagram by tagging @FamilyCircleMag and #FCMADEIT.

6 Beauty Products for a Better Night’s Sleep

Written on June 2, 2014 at 1:20 pm , by

By Reisa Feigenbaum

We could all benefit from better sleep. While The Better Sleep Council raised awareness about the importance of a good night’s rest in May for Better Sleep Month, we’re sharing a slew of products that take beauty rest to a whole new level.

1. Laneige Water Sleeping Mask, and select Target stores, $23

Revive dehydrated skin with an overnight leave-on mask. Highly concentrated mineral water moisturizes parched skin, while rose and sandalwood stimulate relaxation and deliver a pleasant floral scent.


2. Pantene Pro-V Repair & Protect Overnight Miracle Repair Serum, drugstores, $8
Don’t lose sleep over your dry, damaged tresses. Try this leave-in serum that strengthens hair at its weakest points. You’ll wake up with shiny, smooth locks and no sticky residue on your pillow.

3. Bath & Body Works Aromatherapy Pillow Mist in Lavender Chamomile, and Bath & Body Works stores nationwide, $10 
Doze off to the calming scents of lavender, chamomile and vanilla. These essential oils sooth the body and de-stress the mind for a more peaceful sleep. Simply spray onto your pillow or sheets and let the relaxation begin.



4. Sephora Collection Instant Depuffing Eye Mask,, $6
Get the ultimate shut-eye with a refreshing eye mask that contains HydroSenn+, a natural ingredient that seals in moisture. Perfect for traveling, it reduce puffiness and dark circles instantly.



5. Julep Oxygen Nail Treatment,, $18 
Apply this treatment before bed once a week and allow your nails to breathe as they grow, with a pretty glossy nude finish.


6. Dermelect Cosmeceuticals Self-Esteem Beauty Sleep Serum,, $42
Brighten and tighten all night long while the exfoliator reduces pore size, lightens hyperpigmentation and penetrates your pores. This serum boasts powerful anti-aging ingredients including collagen-boosting vitamin C and moisture-rich glycolic acid.



When Your Kid Isn’t Ready for College

Written on June 2, 2014 at 1:12 pm , by

Pressure to get into the right college peaks in junior year. SATs are taken and retaken, colleges are visited, applications are filed and the waiting begins.

Except when your kid, like mine, isn’t ready for college.

We knew before she did that she wasn’t ready. When people hear your kid isn’t going to college right away, they want to believe her grades are bad or that she’s a troublemaker. They don’t want to know she made honor roll every single marking period, that she was captain of the volleyball team and has several AP classes on her transcript. There’s a stigma to not going to college immediately upon graduation, and if your well-qualified student isn’t going, it’s possible that theirs might not either.

The fact is that many high school seniors are entering college blindly. It’s expected of them, and their parents are paying for it. The students take out loans to make up the difference in what their parents can’t pay. Many of them have no idea what they want to major in, or else they want to major in something that will not get them a job that will enable them to pay back that student loan.

I took an informal survey of the newer people showing up in my work circles and found that it was not unusual to have $100,000 in student loan debt. I don’t work in a cutting-edge hospital where you might expect high med-school loans; I work in a theater.

My husband and I are in the midst of paying off a debt that size that has nothing to do with student loans and everything to do with getting custody of these (his) kids. I know exactly how hard it is for us to work through this mess with two incomes. People right out of school are still getting their foot in the door in our business; I have no idea how they’re making loan payments.

With our current debt, we can’t take on loans, nor do we have much of anything to contribute. Our kids know that before any college decisions are made, they need to have a plan.

If you could reduce our parenting to one motto, it would be: Take responsibility for your life. We are willing to suggest, help, guide, even cajole, but it must be the child’s plan because it’s his or her life.

In effect, each of them must answer the question, What do you want to do with your life? The plan can always change, but what is it for now?

It takes a certain level of maturity to answer that question, which is where everything broke down with kid number 2. It wasn’t just about the finances, it was emotional. She’d gone through a lot before she came to live with us; it takes time to process that. We suggested she apply to college but defer for a year. Take any job and explore some options for what she might like to do. She could take flying lessons, EMT training in the Rockies—cool experiences that could translate into marketable skills. Everything we suggested she immediately shot down. She remained frozen in a state of panic.

Finally she took to heart the idea of deferring. The emotional weight visibly lifted from her. But then she went too far the other way. By November of senior year, she still hadn’t applied anywhere. We reminded her that she wasn’t going to sit in the basement and play video games after graduation.

Midway through December we had to threaten to take away Christmas to get her to finish the Common App. At a time when most kids in her school had their acceptances, she was just beginning the process.

But as she got more wins, she gained confidence. She was accepted everywhere she applied. She received some academic awards, a couple of scholarships and consistently the highest grade in her physics class.

We continued to talk about her plan. She continued to clam up. My husband and I worried about how we could possibly get her moving. One morning in the car, I chanced bringing it up. The car is usually a good place for uncomfortable conversations (just make sure your teen isn’t the one driving). She didn’t realize she had a plan until she spoke it out loud. She had picked a school, worked out living arrangements and decided that she would work and save every dime possible until a year from September. We had no idea.

“That’s a good plan,” I said.

“It is?”

“Well, yeah, don’t you think so?”

“I didn’t think it was a plan, really. Because I don’t know where I’ll work and I’m not positive what I want to study yet.”

“You don’t have to have it all figured out to start moving in that direction. Once you take a step, the next steps get clearer to you. That’s how it works.”

I snuck a glance at her and was treated to the rare sight of a smile.

“So now you just need to defer officially,” I said.

“Oh, I did that last week.”

We had been expecting to have to force that action by threatening to take away graduation. As she shared her plan with others, she found only support. Many adults chimed in about how much more valuable she will be to employers after taking this year to work and gain life experience.

I would love it if all my kids ended up graduating from college with zero debt and marketable skills that are so in demand they’re writing their own ticket in a career they are passionate about. Wouldn’t we all?

But what is absolutely essential for them to understand is that they must go into this whole college thing with their eyes open. No parent wants their kids graduating from college with $100,000 in debt, a worthless degree and no earthly idea what they want to do with their lives. Sadly, blindly going for the college experience without putting mindful thought into it will lead to exactly that.

Most likely my kids will end up somewhere between those two extremes. Wherever they go, they’re going to own the decisions that led them there. That already puts them ahead on the path of taking responsibility for their own lives.


JM Randolph is a writer, stagehand and custodial stepmom of five. She lives in New Jersey with her family and blogs at

Summer Reading Rewards

Written on May 30, 2014 at 1:50 pm , by

Just because the school year is winding down doesn’t mean your kids should put away their books. Encourage them to keep reading with four fun programs. Don’t worry, cool swag is involved!

Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge: Dare your kids to break the world record for minutes read. They can enter their times online, then play games and collect digital prizes like sample chapters and virtual badges.

Half Price Books Feed Your Brain Summer Reading Program: Kids collect HPB Bookworm Bucks if they read for at least 15 minutes every day in June and July.

TD Bank Summer Reading Program: Reading literally pays off: When kids in grades K-5 complete 10 books, $10 is added to a new or existing Young Saver bank account.

Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program: Kids earn a complimentary book after reading eight.

6 Ways Parents Can Discuss Sex Before Prom Night and Graduation

Written on May 28, 2014 at 3:31 pm , by

By Leslie Kantor, vice president of education, Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Prom and graduation season is an excellent time to have conversations with our teens about sex—what they anticipate happening, what their date or friends might envision, and how to handle the potent mix of alcohol, drugs and sexual pressure that is likely in the mix.

Studies show that teens who talk with their parents about sex are more likely to make healthy choices like waiting until they are older to have sex, and using birth control and condoms when they do decide to. You can empower your teens to make smart, safe choices by discussing the importance of having good communication with partners and using condoms and contraception. Proms and graduations should be very positive events in a teenager’s life, and with your help, they’ll be prepared and able to focus on enjoying themselves.

Keep the lines of communication open.
Talking with your teenager about sex may be awkward and uncomfortable at first, and owning up to that can help relieve tension. You can try saying something like, “It’s totally normal that this feels awkward, but I love you and care about you so we need to talk about important things like this.” In time and with practice, it will get easier. The key is to keep the conversation open and ongoing.

Discuss expectations.
If you’re allowing your teen to spend the night outside the home or stay out later than usual, talk about what you expect of them and help them think about how to handle peer pressure or difficult situations.

Practice things to say and ways to handle different situations.
As parents, we can help our teens by warning them about the lines they might hear and situations they may find themselves in. We can help them practice assertive responses that feel right to them, from saying no to sex to setting boundaries about what they want and don’t want to do. For teens that are going to engage in sex, making sure they are prepared with condoms is essential, as is what constitutes consensual sex so that teens are clear that when someone is drunk, they can’t actually consent to sex.

Talk with them about preventing pregnancy and STDs.
The reality is that 63% of high school seniors have had sex. Even if you want your teen to wait until they are out of high school or much older to have sex, it’s still important that they know how to protect themselves from STDs and getting pregnant before they head off to college, or start jobs that will inevitably force them to face sexual decisions and pressures.

Make sure they’re prepared.
You might want to make sure they have condoms with them on prom night and consider having your teen get a method of birth control as well. Chances are that that first year away at college or working, opportunities for sex will arise, so it’s better that he or she is prepared.

Get more information.
If the thought of helping your teen navigate these decisions feels a bit overwhelming, don’t worry. Many college health centers provide condoms and birth control, and you and your teen can always visit a Planned Parenthood health center for information and care. They can also check out Planned Parenthood’s, which is designed to help older teens find methods that will work well for them, which they can then discuss with a health care provider.

For more information and resources on talking to teens about sex and sexuality, check out Read more of Leslie’s work, here

Follow Leslie on Twitter @LeslieKantor.