Moms: ‘We Need To Talk’

Talking to your daughters about sex is easier said than done. That is the premise of a new documentary, "We Need to Talk: A Message for Our Daughters." Filmmaker Janks Morton says his film is a jumping-off point to help African-American mothers and daughters speak frankly with one another. Also joining the conversation is Chicago-based psychologist Carl Bell. Dr. Bell says the conversation should start much earlier than one might expect. And two mothers of teenage daughters, Dani Tucker and Diane Jackson, talk about their strategies for keeping the conversation open and honest.

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TONY COX, Host:

This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Tony Cox. Michel Martin is away.

Coming up, a bumpy road home for African-Americans looking to return to New Orleans during the recovery from Hurricane Katrina. But first, we continue now with our conversation about the new documentary, "We Need to Talk," a guide for tough talks with your teenage daughters. Our guests are filmmaker Janks Morton; also with us, psychiatrist Dr. Carl Bell; and parents Diane Jackson and Dani Tucker also with us.

Before the break, Dani, you were making a point.

DANETTE TUCKER: Oh yes, like I said, as a mom, my biggest thing with my daughter is to share my personal experiences. You got to let her know the mistakes I made, what I learned from them, and hoping that that will help her as she faces similar situations.

COX: What about that, Diane, what your experience is? 'Cause I know sometimes kids are like, you know, well, that's what happened to you. That was back then, you know, when dinosaurs roamed the earth. This is new stuff now.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

COX: We have a new way of dealing with things.

DIANE JACKSON: Well, I agree with Dani. You have to be open. You're right, our parents were kind of a little - kind of closed-mouth about their past. And I have two girls. I have a 17-year-old and a 14-year-old, and I'm a parent - I'm going to be a grandmother soon. My daughter is pregnant. And the fact that the movie helped us see - her see things differently.

And also allowed her to talk to her friends and her friends. And it's just spreading the word that - and even for me and my girlfriends and my peers to say, hey, we have to start speaking to our daughters. We have to let them know. Even parents of boys, tell your boys how this is affecting these girls. And so we can make a difference in educating and being open, and dealing with those demons, and not hiding the past and dealing with our wounds. We can make a difference.

COX: Well, Janks, let me play devil's advocate with you for a moment, if I will, about the film, because it focused on the girls and their dealing with it. And there is a school of thought that too much of the responsibility and the pressure for avoiding teenage pregnancy falls on the girls. And your film doesn't really talk with or about the guys very much. Why was that?

JANKS MORTON: This is the first time that I've walked in that lane - or that space of working with women. I've done work with men and boys for years, so I know that one. But think of this as a conversation starter. I'm not going to be perfect. It's not going to cover - this movie, even as short as it is, is as complex as part of a woman. There are so many avenues that you can go through to explore to say, yes, that is one.

JACKSON: that if I have two parents helping a child navigate to adulthood, then I'm not having the conversation about the boys. If these - excuse me - these young girls knew how valuable and precious and how special they were, and they have been protected and nurtured in the proper ways, then I don't have to worry about the boys because the boys are not - Lil' Wayne is a joke. He's not going to take away from these girls what we see is happening.

COX: Dr. Bell, my last question for you is this, 'cause our time is running short. Can a film be effective in sending a message like this?

CARL BELL: A film can get the fire started. The difficulty, if you're going to change behavior, you have to have a life makeover. You have to be proactive. You've got to be preventive in your approach. You've got to start actually pre-infancy, pre - when the child is in utero. You've got to make sure that there's a good bond and attachment and capacity for connectedness, which starts at infancy.

There has to be good relationships between parent and child. That parent has to have social skills - social and emotional skills. A parent has to show emotional control, to teach their child emotional control. That parent has to keep eyes on that child.

COX: Well, let me stop you there only because the clock is saying we have to end it, but your point is well-taken. You did have - and I think the audience should know this - some outstanding, very poignant stories from the women who you were able to get in there.

MORTON: Mm-hmm.

COX: And if anybody could tell the story, they could definitely do it. You could feel it. And thank you for, you know, coming in and sharing with us. The name of the film is "We Need to Talk," and I suppose that's true. We need to talk.

Joining us, psychiatrist Dr. Carl Bell; also with us here, Dani Tucker and Diane Jackson, both mothers; and the filmmaker of "We Need to Talk," Janks Morton.

Again, thank you all for being with us.

MORTON: Thank you for having us.

BELL: Thank you.

JACKSON: Thank you.

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