Being a Teen: Everything Teen Girls & Boys Should Know About Relationships, Sex, Love, Health, Identity & More

Being a Teen: Everything Teen Girls & Boys Should Know About Relationships, Sex, Love, Health, Identity & More

by Jane Fonda

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This thorough, concise guide offers straight talk about:
• The male and female body as it changes and matures.
• Teen relationships: what it takes to create happy, supportive, positive, and meaningful connections with family, friends, and others.
• Identity empowerment: how to be authentic and thrive in today’s world.
• Sex and sexuality for boys and girls: how teens should take care of their bodies, embrace their experiences, and strengthen self-esteem.
• Strategies for working through the toughest challenges, including bullying, sexual abuse, eating disorders, pregnancy, and more.
Praise for Being a Teen
“A frank and candid resource for adolescents.”People
“Fonda’s warmth and love for the teen community is evident.”Publishers Weekly
“Clear, practical, and riveting, Being a Teen cuts away at myth, enhances teens’ self-esteem, and arms them with a trove of useful information. Beautifully organized . . . Any parent, teacher, coach, or doctor needs to read this authoritative guide. What a lifesaver for our boys and girls!”—William S. Pollack, PhD, author of the international bestseller Real Boys and Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School

Being a Teen should be in the hands of every teen in the world. It is a myth-busting, fact-filled treasure full of life information all teens want and need to know.”—Christiane Northrup, M.D., New York Times bestselling author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom
“Clear, unflinching, and nonjudgmental . . . a reliable guide to the turbulent physical and social transitions of adolescence.”—Michael Kimmel, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies, Stony Brook University, and author of Guyland
“A comprehensive, honest, fun-to-read book for today’s teenagers. This delightful book will be used again and again.”—The Reverend Debra W. Haffner, president, Religious Institute, and author of From Diapers to Dating

“Detailed, accurate and practical . . . an excellent resource.”—Paul Kivel, author of Boys Will Be Men

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812996043
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/04/2014
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 830,209
File size: 4 MB
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Jane Fonda, the Oscar- and Emmy-award winning actor, is the founder of the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential and the Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health at the Emory University School of Medicine. Though she is also a highly successful producer and #1 New York Times bestselling author, Fonda’s passion lies in advocating for young people’s health. Fonda also sits on the boards of Women and Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, the Women’s Media Center (which she co-founded in 2004), and V-Day. A former UN Goodwill Ambassador, she is a frequent speaker on youth development, child sexual abuse, eating disorders, adolescent reproductive health, and more. She lives in Los Angeles.

Read an Excerpt

chapter 1.

What This Book Is All About

Your Developing Identity

This is an important time in your life. Who you are as a person—­your identity—­is being developed, and you are beginning your lifelong journey of personal sexual understanding and expression. By identity, I mean your values, your beliefs, what you like and don’t like, how you treat others, and how you treat yourself. Yet this is also a time when there are so many pressures to be how others want you to be. You may be tempted to be different from who you really are so that you’ll be popular with a certain group, or seem cool.

Sexuality is not just about body parts, STIs, and contraception. It is also a large part of a person’s identity, and that is why this book is also about relationships and feelings. How you understand and deal with them will help form your identity. I also write about the media and culture because they, too, can influence your identity—­and not always for the good.

Adolescence is the gateway to adulthood, a stage of life filled with changes, with its own unique joys and challenges. In this book, I’ve tried to address the whole you, all the different parts—­the physical, mental, and emotional things that are part of the adult person you are becoming.

Key Ideas I Hope You’ll Learn

Here are the key ideas I hope you’ll learn from this book:

1.This is the time in your life when you should begin to really know who you are as a person, who you want to be, what values you claim for yourself. Knowing who you are will help you make decisions that are right for you.

2.Your body is still developing and you have a right to understand how it is changing. Your body is not to be feared, nor should you feel shame or guilt about it, no matter what.

3.Abstaining from sexual intercourse when you are young is the best way to reduce your risk of pregnancy and infection—­of course!

4.Do not start having sex just because your friends say they are sexually active.

5.You can say “no” to any form of sex—­kissing, touching, anything—­anytime you feel like it, for any reason. Boys and girls are both responsible for seeking each other’s permission before any sexual touching advances.

6.If you start having sex, be sure you are able to discuss contraception with your partner and use it correctly every single time.

7.Being with someone you trust and can communicate with, besides someone who turns you on, helps ensure your experience will be pleasurable. Young men and women are both responsible for talking about feelings and asking about feelings.

8.If you have been sexually abused, assaulted, or harassed, it was not your fault. You need to talk right away with a trusted adult and tell them what has happened to you.

This Is a “Dip-­in” Book

You don’t need to read this book from start to finish—­although I hope you will. You may prefer to dip in and out of this book, or read the parts you most want to know about. Flipping to topics of particular interest to you is fine, and I’ve structured the book that way. I hope you enjoy it and learn from it.


Your Identity: Who You Are and How You Feel About Yourself


Your Relationship with Yourself

There is no doubt the most important relationship we have is our relationship with ourselves. By that I mean having a sense of your own values; starting to have a sense of what your strengths and weaknesses are; feeling that your actions accurately reflect who you are and not just things you do because other people want you to or just to please others. There’s nothing wrong with pleasing others, but not if that betrays who you are. If you have a good relationship with yourself, it’s easier to have a good relationship with others. Later in this book we’ll talk about relationships with family and friends.


Your awareness of self as a separate individual usually begins during puberty. Puberty is the biological part of the early adolescent years, when the sexual and reproductive systems start to mature. For some, puberty starts even sooner and for others it can start later. Some of you in high school will still be going through puberty. Boys usually go through puberty one or two years later than girls do—­between ages eleven and fifteen. Each person goes through puberty in different ways at different times, which is normal.

Your Teen Years

Your teen years begin at age thirteen and end around nineteen or twenty—­when you have a completely adult body, though not yet a completely adult brain. The final development of your brain—­the really important part in the front of your brain that handles decision making and planning—­won’t be complete for a few more years, around ages twenty-­four or twenty-­five.

Besides all the visible and invisible changes that are happening to your body, your personality is changing as well—­how you think, how you feel, and how you relate to other people.

Thoughts and Feelings

At your stage of life, there is a lot of worrying about how you look, whether you come across as cool or nerdy, whether you are dressing right, whether your hairstyle is what it should be to make you look your best, whether your body is developing fast enough or too fast, whether you are popular, whether you should start hooking up.

Thinking in New Ways

During early puberty, a person’s thoughts are likely to be mainly about what is happening right at the moment, not what might happen someday—­what is known as “concrete thinking.” In puberty, it’s common to begin to think more about big things, such as your future. Arguing positions, exploring possibilities, considering new ideas and moral issues, is called “abstract thinking.” Abstract thinking has a lot to do with your developing identity.

Thinking About Who You Are: Your Identity

Maybe you’ve begun to examine the values and beliefs that you’ve been brought up with. You are starting to think more for yourself and, as you continue to learn and grow over the years, you’ll notice that things you feel sure of today may change many times.

During your teenage years is the time when your identity is being developed—­who you are as a person, on your own, separate from your parents and friends. Because you are just getting to know who you are, it’s easy to be influenced by what others think of you—­classmates, teachers, coaches. It’s a good time to appreciate who you really are instead of what others want you to be. Think about the ways that you are different from your friends and family and the ways you are the same. Try writing them down, in a notebook just for you. Sometimes, when you write things down, it’s easier to think about them, analyze them, and feel sure of opinions.

What kind of person are you, or do you want to be? Do any of these words come to mind: kind, considerate, generous, honest, loving, funny, smart? I didn’t ask what you wanted to do in your life; rather, my question is about your being—­how you’d like to be in the world. Write down the things you’d like to be and from time to time think about whether or not your actions, the friends you choose, and the things you do are contributing to your becoming this person.

Self-­Esteem (Confidence)

Your adult identity is being created and you are developing self-­esteem. Self-­esteem means having positive feelings about yourself. This is different from what others think about you. Self-­esteem comes from inside yourself. What are you good at? Sports? School? Music? Making people laugh? Putting things together? Cooking? Writing? Helping others? Drawing? Being a good friend? Think about trying to get better at the things you’re already good at. It helps our self-­esteem when we know we have skills and qualities that are valuable no matter what anyone else says.

People who say mean things to other people have their own problems. They may not be nice people or they may just be having a bad time themselves. Maybe you’ve said mean things yourself.

Ask yourself if maybe the person who’s being mean is jealous of you or has a reason to upset you. Maybe he or she doesn’t feel very good about him-­ or herself and acts mean to feel more powerful. What we can do at times like these is think about our good qualities—­think positively. Positive thoughts can become a habit and help develop self-­esteem. What we mustn’t do is base our feelings about ourselves on what other people say or do to us.

Young people who are passionate about things like music, drama, drawing, robotics, horseback riding, writing, and volunteering, and are involved in those activities, show more self-­esteem. Girls and boys who engage in sports and fitness are less likely to have low self-­esteem or engage in risky behaviors.

Everyone in the world has times of self-­doubt, but this is a good time to learn ways to begin to overcome self-­doubts and raise your self-­esteem. For one thing, try to notice the people and situations that make you feel bad, and avoid them. Take different routes. On the other hand, think of the people and situations that make you feel good, and try to make them more a part of your life.

You may meet people who seem to have too much self-­esteem. This probably means that underneath their cocky “I’m the best” attitude, they don’t really have a lot of confidence.

Don’t let anyone make you feel ashamed of who and what you are. Whatever your gender, race, beliefs, body shape, sexual orientation, economic status, or religion, no one can or should make you feel less than anyone else.


Your body is producing a lot of new hormones—­estrogen in girls and testosterone in boys. These are what cause some of the mood swings that are so common in puberty and adolescence—­perhaps more for girls than for boys.

If you feel sad and depressed for more than a week or so, try to talk to an adult who you know will listen to you. Hopefully you have the kind of relationship with one or both of your parents or a guardian that would make it easy to discuss your feelings with them. Maybe it’s hard for them to start such a conversation. Maybe you’re the one who has to get it going. If it’s hard for you to talk to your parents, seek out another adult you trust who has proved wise and caring. Maybe there’s a relative, a teacher, a coach, the parent of a friend, or a religious leader whom you like and who cares about you. Often just having someone listen to you can lift your spirits.


Chances are you are experiencing more drama or stress in your life now. It might make your body feel tense. You might feel nervous or anxious. Now is a good time to begin to notice when you feel stressed and cranky. See how drama makes you act and learn to manage it rather than acting out or just trying to live with it.

Ways to Cope

Exercise and Depression

Depression can take many forms in teenagers. You may feel sad or hopeless, have difficulty sleeping or concentrating, have low energy, have lost interest in things you like to do. You may feel grumpy or irritable. If there is a history of depression in your family, you may be at higher risk for depression. Try to talk to an adult who you know will listen. Exercise and sports are a good way to make yourself feel better when you’re down. Aerobic exercise—­running, jogging, swimming, dancing, and biking—­produces feel-­good chemicals in your body called endorphins. You can actually feel the good sensation after 30 minutes or more of these activities.


Often stress can be caused by lack of sleep. Sleep is really important at your age. You actually need more sleep now, to maintain alertness, than you did before puberty. Make it a priority. Experiment with ways that can help. For instance, drink a cup of warm milk right before bed. Milk contains a natural amino acid called tryptophan that is calming. Try not to eat or drink things in the evening that contain caffeine, such as chocolate and soft drinks. Starting about a half hour before you want to go to bed (and get those nine to ten hours), begin to relax, listen to soothing music, do things that you find calming. Deep breathing is an excellent way to make your body and mind relax and calm down. Roughhousing right before bedtime may be fun but it won’t help you get ready to sleep. Turning off electronics thirty to sixty minutes before bed will help. Ask your parents to help you with all this.



Identity and the Culture You Live In

A lot of how we feel about ourselves is influenced by our culture, so it’s important to become more aware of what the culture you live in is and how it may affect you.

What Is Culture?

Culture is a combination of the ideas, behaviors, and values of a society. We learn to interpret life through the lens of the culture we live in. You can’t always see it, but culture is what tells us (and our parents and friends) how men and women, boys and girls, are supposed to be, look, and act.

The Media

The media—­television, radio, film, music, newspapers, magazines, the Internet, advertising—­is part of the culture, probably the part that you interact with the most, the part that has the potential to influence you the most.

Many of your thoughts and ideas come from outside you—­from the media. Some of what you see and hear in the media is wonderful, but some of it is not so good, especially in terms of the messages it sends about gender roles—­how women and men are supposed to be.

Much of the media is created by people and corporations whose main goal is to make money, and the ideas they put across may or may not be the right ideas for you. You don’t want them to “have” you, to have power over you, do you? Probably not, so this is a good time to think about who you are, who you want to be, and what the media is telling you to be.

Mainstream Culture

The general culture we live in is referred to as “mainstream” culture. It is not set in stone. Every decade or so culture tends to change—­sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. For example, when I was growing up in the forties, fifties, and early sixties, we saw only white people in TV commercials and on popular TV shows. We never heard women speaking in TV commercials, even those that promoted products used by women. News broadcasters were all white men. White men and male voices were considered more authoritative and were the only voices we heard. On the radio, in movies, and on television, women characters almost never worked outside the home. They did “women’s work,” which meant they were housewives—­period! In the fifties and sixties, male models in magazines or TV ads were not all buffed up with six-­pack abs and female models were not nearly as skinny as they are today. These are just a few examples of cultural change.

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Being a Teen: Everything Teen Girls & Boys Should Know About Relationships, Sex, Love, Health, Identity & More 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Wildflowers More than 1 year ago
Being a Teen: Everything Teen Girls & Boys Should Know About Relationships, Sex, Love, Health, Identity & More by Jane Fonda is a timely and helpful guide which should be in the hands of every teen worldwide. Born December 21, 1937, the author Jane Fonda is a famous actress, writer, political activist, former fashion model, and fitness guru. She rose to fame in the 1960s with films such as Barbarella and Cat Ballou and is a household name worldwide. She is many things to many people and this all-encompassing guide for teens may come as a surprise to many. What, however, is to be remembered at the heart of the book is genuine concern for young people. Jane Fonda has approached the subject with pragmatism which will be a huge boost for young readers who are gearing up for life. Her open and honest discussions about sex, relationships, self-esteem and other subjects are truly worth pondering. The book answers questions like "How do I know if I'm in a real relationship?", "How can I say `no' and still be popular?" and "When is it okay to have sex?" In a world full of confusion, this book should open the eyes of many teens. Being a Teen is not just about sex and relationship. It has chapters which frankly and honestly answer questions which many teens will feel awkward to ask others. Vast and exhaustive, it covers almost everything from identity to culture, relationship to sex, from body to their growth, from sexual abuse to family, from bullying to friends and much more. Talking about healthy relationship, Fonda writes: It is not a healthy relationship if there is abuse or pressure of any kind. You should not allow disrespectful language,subtle pressure or deception in an intimate relationship. It should go without saying that anyone who puts you down, uses violence against you or tries to force you into sex is an unhealthy partner. Many readers will also find the information given at the end of each chapter useful. It contains more information about organizations & resources where one can get help or advice. Being a Teen is informative and resourceful, a book teens can dip into whenever they are faced with obstacles, that they can read and refer back to again and again. Some may be cynical about the book but I honestly believe that the author delivers this treasure-trove for teens to guide them onto a path that will lead them to healthy relationships, happy family and above all, a really satisfying life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a 75 great grandmother and was hunting for a book like this to give to my 13 yr old great grandson , went to the library and checked Being a Teen out and read it   and now am going to order it.  It is an excellent book, easy for any age to understand and covers lots of topics a young person needs info about.  Highly recommend it. Going to order it .
Desert-Dweller More than 1 year ago
Absolutely Right On The Money! Adolescence is the most awkward years of our lives as we all know. This book offers answers to questions teens usually would never ask but want to know and should know. It addresses teens as real people not just "teen-agers". Ms. Fonda's extensive experience in the health and fitness field, including the founding of clinics and teen programs yields a perfect author on this subject.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I agree with confused what is fle?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I totally agree with you, u cant run from ur problems it can be hard being a teen but if ur down in the dumps stop thinking about it move on with life. Girls we are better than that we just need to stop thinking about bad times and move on u may/may not still have those bad memories but we need to move on with life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book talks about sex and growing up and relationships and how being a teen can be hard at times, but you need to have self confudence and have a giod self of steam by being you. I am a teenager and it is hard but lufe can be tough but u just have to keep going.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Most teens and preteens already go through FLE (I know because I am 13.) We don't need anyone else bothering us about this. So just stop. Please.