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Where drugs and drinking, money management, and sex are concerned, parents have to make sure kids really get — and understand — the information and the guidance they need to negotiate these thorny issues on their own. A whopping 82 percent of parents say it's important to talk to teens about sex, for example, but admit they have no clue when or how to do it, reported a 2007 survey by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

But here's an incentive to figure out a way to talk to your teen about condoms and keg parties: "Kids really want their parents to talk to them about issues like this," says Richard M. D., professor of child development at Tufts University and author of The Good Teen: Rescuing Adolescence from the Myths of the Storm and Stress Years.

"Research shows that most adolescents share their parents' values and want to know what they think." That's reassuring — but you may need some help navigating past the eye-rolling stage.

Read on for experts' and parents' best advice on getting these crucial conversations going.

"I wanted them to see firsthand the harmful consequences of the bad choices these people made."Lecturing doesn't help kids internalize this kind of lesson, says Pasierb, but give-and-take does.