Jane Fonda has most recently been making grownups laugh out loud in her role as Grace in Grace and Frankie on Netflix. She’s also devoted the last 20 years to improving the well-being of adolescents, including her book for teenagers, Being a Teen. Topics include friendship, peer pressure, the influence of the media and the importance of trust and communication in every relationship.
Q: What made you interested in devoting your time to teens?
Fonda: I’ve always had a keen spot in my heart for teens, perhaps because it was a difficult time for me. Teens are prickly and think they know everything, but they need reliable resources for information.
Q: What do you hope your book will accomplish?
Fonda: I hope it will answer many of the questions that teens have and that I had as a teen but didn’t know where to go for answers. Most of my questions were about feelings and relationships.
Q: What is the book’s biggest take-away?
Fonda: That before you have sex, you need to feel comfortable talking about sex with a potential partner—what you expect and need, including protection. Communication is the key. And, this is your choice—you don’t have to do what others want.
Q: Would this book have helped you as a teen, and how?
Fonda: Totally. It would have answered many questions: How do know if I’m in a real relationship? Do I have the right to say, “No” and have it matter? How do I choose my friends? I didn’t get my period for so long, I thought I was maybe supposed to be a boy!
Q: Do you think your kids would have read the book when they were teens?
Fonda: I’m not sure; their mother writing it might have given them pause. But, I’m giving it to my grandkids.
Q: How did your childhood affect your parenting?
Fonda: My childhood didn’t teach me how to be a very good parent. Maybe that’s one reason why I needed to write the book. I’ve been studying parenting for almost 20 years. As they say, “You teach what you need to learn.”
Q: What was your parenting style?
Fonda: I wish I’d done more talking. I wasn’t consistent enough. And I traveled a lot. I hate to think it, but I sort of repeated some of my parents’ mistakes.
Q: What would you have done differently with your kids?
Fonda: I would have started early, very early, calling body parts by their correct names and explaining how babies are made. When they were nine or 10, I would have found the opportunities to discuss sexuality—the normalcy of it, the importance of it and being true to yourself. We are all sexual beings, and I would have wanted to tell them that though they would start having sexual feelings, that didn’t mean they had to act on it. I think this would have made me an “approachable parent”—a parent whom children feel comfortable coming to with their questions. When they got older, I would have talked about the importance of not doing anything they weren’t comfortable with and ready for. I would have discussed the importance of communicating what a real relationship should look like and feel like. ”