Book helps parents over hurdle of having 'the talk' with their children

October 26, 2000

Most parents and children dread the time when they sit down and have "the talk." You know, the one about the birds and the bees.

But uneasiness does not have to be part of the conversation, according to University of Washington sociologist Pepper Schwartz, co-author of the new book "Ten Talks Parents Must Have with Their Children About Sex and Character." The book was published this week by Hyperion. Ten Talks covers many of the topics parents say they want their children to learn about, according to a survey about sex education released earlier this month by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. But instead of solely relying on schools to provide sex education, Ten Talks equips parents with a variety of tools to sit down and talk with and listen to their children.

Schwartz and Dominic Cappello, a writer and communications specialist, wrote the book to empower parents to share what they believe and expect from their children between the ages of 8 and 16. "There is relatively little said about sex in the home except for 'the talk' because parents and kids are too embarrassed," Schwartz said. "Parents need to teach their children family rules and values and learn what their children feel and think about these issues.

"The book has 10 talks because you can't just have one. We provide a skill-building group of exercises to help parents prepare for each talk. People need a structure, if it came naturally they'd already be doing it. Often parents don't talk to their kids because they feel they don't know anything. We teach them how to deal with an eager child and a truculent one."

Schwartz said the focus of the book is on sex and character because she and Cappello didn't want to simply write another book about body parts.

"Children need to hear about the emotional side of sexual relationships including ethics and family values, the kind of information that can only come from their parents, " she said. "Character means doing the right things and children today often don't know how to respect others or how to require respect for themselves. We want children to understand that character and relationships are related and that relationships should be conducted honestly. They need to know what happens when trust is broken, and why lies to parents are not good and why they damage intimacy.

"A lot of people lie to children and we know teenagers admit that they frequently lie. We talk about the challenge to be honest. We think that if there isn't trust and honesty it will undermine the parent-child relationship and all other relationships."

Ten Talks provides a step-by-step approach for parents to follow, age-appropriate scenarios and guidance in what each talk is designed to accomplish. Each talk also has material covering warning signs about situations that are out of the ordinary, along with help in finding resources and assistance. The book covers such topics as personal boundaries, attraction and love, body image, healthy relationships, trust and honesty, and dealing with sexuality in cyberspace and other media. "Each of these talks can happen in 10 or 20 minutes," said Schwartz. "There is data showing that parents have less than 18 minutes of conversation a day with their kids that isn't an order to do something or a correction for doing something wrong. Our ambition is to get families into these conversations about sexuality, character, family values and rules in a way that is easy for parents and children. Some of this, of course, depends on the reaction of the child. Many kids will answer in monosyllables. But some kids may sink their teeth into a topic and run away with it, talking for 45 minutes. It would be nice if parents and children had more intimate relationships."

Both authors feel that Ten Talks' strategies have the potential to make each child's life safer and all their relationships healthier.
For more information, contact Schwartz at (206) 543-2580 or or visit

For a review copy of the book, contact Jody Glaser-Taub at (212) 456-0175 or

University of Washington

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