The A Word
With every episode of THE A WORD, which airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on SundanceTV, comes an “A” Word of the Week. Marisa Nightingale—senior media advisor for The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy — talks about the cringe-worthy moment in adolescence when it’s time for “The Talk,” and offers some tips on how to make it less awkward.
Rebecca isn’t the only one cringing when her uncle, Eddie, tries to talk to her honestly about sex… and when he keeps the conversation going even when she changes the subject. We have all been on the receiving end of this conversation and many of us have been Eddie, too. Adolescence, and the awkward conversations that come with it, can be tough on both teens and adults. But by showing Rebecca that this was too important—that she was too important—to do the easy thing and drop the subject, Eddie sent Rebecca a clear and important message: He cares about her, her feelings and her future. Like most going through this phase of adolescence, she was secretly glad that he was there for her.
Conversations like this one between teens and the adults they trust—about sex, love and how to tell the difference—are as essential as they are awkward. Whether you’re a parent or an Uncle Joe or an older cousin or teacher or aunt, if you have a teen in your life who trusts you, you can make a lasting impression and a permanent difference. Imagine if every young person had a trusted adult with whom they could talk openly about their futures, including how and when a pregnancy fits in. Or how to be sure that their intentions about pregnancy line up with their actions: Nine in 10 teenage pregnancies are unplanned, according to teens themselves.
So much has changed over the past 20 years in the lives of teens and in the nation’s effort to reduce teen pregnancy: Teen pregnancy and birth rates are less than half what they were two decades ago, and teens are more likely to wait to have sex and more likely to use contraception when they do. One thing that hasn’t changed a bit? That parents are the No. 1 influence on their teens’ decisions about sex. Parents and other trusted adults are more powerful than peers, partners or pop culture. Even if your teens don’t act like it, they really do want you to talk with them. And if you don’t, remember that everyone else is.
Be the trusted adult that your teen needs. Here are some time-tested strategies to help you start talking, keep the conversation going, and have the kind of talk that’s remembered for more than just how embarrassing it was.
As The National Campaign’s Senior Media Advisor, Marisa Nightingale leads key partnerships with entertainment media executives to help harness the power of popular media to reduce teen and unplanned pregnancy. She and her colleagues provide expertise, information, and hands-on help to media decision-makers whose content is most popular with teens, young adults, and their parents.
Marisa joined the Campaign in 1996, shortly after its founding, and is the architect of its nationally-recognized Entertainment Media program. She served as the program’s Senior Director for 12 years and continues to advise on strategy and cultivate message integration partnerships with outlets including NBC, FOX, ABC, The CW, Hulu, Marie Claire, Family Circle, Essence, Latina and more, with a special emphasis on reaching Latino audiences. Public Service Announcement (PSA) campaigns developed under her direction have won multiple awards and garnered millions of dollars in free placements. She played a leadership role in the conception, development and launch of "Thanks, Birth Control," a social media effort that engages individuals and organizations in a positive public conversation about all that birth control makes possible.
Prior to joining The National Campaign, Marisa was the Communications Director at Share Our Strength (SOS), a leading national voice in the fight against hunger. At SOS, she worked with journalists, chefs, corporate partners, and community organizations to address the causes and consequences of hunger and poverty. Marisa is a guest lecturer at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business and is a seasoned speaker on the role of media in preventing teen and unplanned pregnancy and promoting social change. She has served as a Campaign spokesperson on The Today Show, The View, The Ricki Lake Show, NPR, USA Today, The Washington Post, and elsewhere. Marisa graduated with honors from Yale University and lives in Washington, DC with her husband, two children and a lively mutt.