One of the best opportunities parents have for talking with their teen is in the car. Usually the lines of communication are more open when parents can talk without maintaining eye contact with their teen. Also facial expressions are less intense when talking about highly contenscious issues. After the drive stop for something to drink or get some ice cream and sit in a place where the communication can continue.
Another good location is on the golf course where conversations can flow from hole to hole and the activity you are involved with allows for both direct discussion of issues and a prolonged dialogue.
The main thing is you can not wait to have discussions on major topics until they become a concern.
In my class this week I gave them a real situation where a 14 year-old girl has been dating a 18 year old boy and they have been intimate for two years. The questions revolved around how parents should react when they find out.
It is always surprising that some students react to this by stating something such as the following, "This could probably be labeled as abuse, but if they have been in a relationship that long it must be they really care for each other so the main thing is to make sure the girl knows she has options." They think the parents must already know because parents should know. As you can imagine there are some in the class that have themselves lived through similar situations and what I find is that they refuse to condem behavior in others that they engaged in themselves. What they do acknowledge is that they wish someone would have stepped in and stopped things even if they would not have liked it.
In an interesting study this past week it was reported that over 75% of parents did not think their children were having sex. When they talked with the teens it turned out that only 9% were not. Conversations need to start early.