BEING A TEEN

This is a photo of me with the leaders of a program called PEER UP (Peer Education & Encouragement to Reduce Unintended Pregnancy Program) developed by The Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential (GCAPP), a non-profit I founded in 1995. PEER UP works with older teens in college as unintended pregnancy affects a significant number of community college students and has a serious impact on their ability to stay in school and do well. The program increases student’s access to clinical services, on-campus health education about contraceptives and resources, and enlists faculty to assign online lessons—all of which helps improve graduation rates. PEER UP is just one of a number of programs we run to help adolescents stay healthy, avoid risky behaviors and fulfill their potential.

I’ve always had a soft spot for adolescents. Children are easier to love. They’re cuddly and cute and don’t talk back. Teens are prickly. Often they make you feel they aren’t listening to you, that you are an old-fashion fuddy duddy that has nothing worthwhile to offer them. I remember seeing a bumper sticker on a restaurant door that said: “Quick, hire a teenager while they still know everything!”

Despite my privileges as the child of a famous, successful parent, adolescence wasn’t easy for me for lots of reasons. My mother died when I was twelve; my father was a busy working actor; I thought there were things that were wrong with me but I didn’t know where to go to get answers. And my questions weren’t just about sex and my developing body. They were also about depression, bulimia, how I could know what a good relationship was supposed to feel like and when (or if) I was ready to become sexually active and how to say “no” without becoming unpopular.

When I moved to Georgia after marrying Ted Turner in the 1990s, I began working with teens. At the time, my new home state had the highest rate of adolescent pregnancies and repeat pregnancies in the nation and I was determined to try and address the issue. (We have dropped to 16th in the nation. Still too high given the consequences but very encouraging!I) I went to housing projects to talk with teens and their parents. I visited hospitals in various parts of Georgia where I met 13 and 14 year old girls going into labor. I met with students at the school my grandchildren attend. I talked to DFACs workers. I founded GCAPP and helped create the Jane Fonda Center at Emory University School of Medicine which develops programs and curricula promoting adolescent reproductive health and healthy relationships, avoiding risky behavior, making good choices in life and I helped develop the state-of-the-art Teen Clinic at Grady Memorial Hospital, the largest emergency hospital in the southeast.

Over the past three decades, I came to a much deeper understanding of the importance of adolescence as a unique stage of human development, the gateway to adulthood, a time when young people develop the values and the skills they carry into the next stage of their lives. I learned that teens need and want answers to their questions (even when they appear not to be listening!) and I was stunned at the misinformation far too many have–sometimes life-threatening misinformation. I saw the enormous influence the media exerts on how young people see themselves and how they behave. I discovered that, while we may not be able to change media, we can inoculate teens against media’s negative influence simply by making them conscious of how and why media operates the way it does.

Three years ago I began writing BEING A TEEN, a book that would be informative and accessible to teens. It includes information about many things I wish I had known as a teen, and information about things that today’s teenagers face that I never dreamed of—how to handle cyber bullying, the excessive influence of media, and much more.

BEING A TEEN is an unusual book because it doesn’t just address the developing body and sexuality, but also includes questions of self-concept, gender identity, what goes into a healthy relationship, how to know if you’re in a real one, and how to say “no.” I wrote this book to be a resource for teenagers, a book they can dip into whenever they are faced with obstacles, that they can read and refer back to again and again. That is my hope.
http://www.randomhouse.com/book/54252/being-a-teen-by-jane-fonda

Share This Post
17 Comments
  1. So happy to hear about Being A Teen. Please contact me if you need help planning an event in Colorado.

  2. I have been eagerly awaiting for you to release this book! Will you be doing a book tour for it? Though, I already know I want to purchase several copies ASAP.

  3. How inspiring. It’s especially hard to find guidance when you’re a teen, but I’m sure that your words will help many to find their own voice sooner. I think if you set the basics of your happiness at such an early age, it can have a positive effect on the rest of your life.

    The most important thing is to feel that you’re heard and understood.

  4. Can’t wait. Already pre-ordered.

  5. The problems with adolescent pregnancies, is all over the world! Here in Brazil, it is absurd! Mostly with the poor and jobless. No matter how many birth control programs our Government do or knowledge of them! And worse, the Brazilians “celebrities”,from TV,Movies, Music and Sports, doesn´t care,and keep having babies with their “gruppies”,and that is not a very good example for the young! I think all the girls,as soon as they had their first period, should start right away to take the birth control pills, or use de DIU.That´s what my family did with all the girls.This the only way.Congratulations once more, for your concern with others les fortunate. From Brazil,my best regards to you, my forever Idol and extraordinary human being.As I sad months ago, you look very much younger and pretty with your hair long.xo

  6. Jane, I thank God that I’ve lived long enough to see organizations like PEER UP and GCCAP exist and help shepherd teenagers and young adults through perhaps the most tumultuous and possibly defining period of their lives. I’m 66, was a teenager in the 1960s and when folks of my generation or older talk about the “good old days” they’re either kidding themselves or seeing them through rose-colored glasses. Girls who got “in trouble” either had back-alley abortions, were forced to marry at a young age to boys they didn’t love, or were ordered to leave school and they and their children were branded by society. Also, Gay kids or anyone who was “different” were virtually terrorized. Who did teenagers have to turn to with their problems back then? Just about nobody. If you weren’t Sandra Dee perfect or Harvard Row Team-ready then you were not the ideal. I knew a girl who died from an eating disorder and her family refused to even discuss it! The good old days, indeed.

    Of all the important things that you’ve used your celebrity for this tops the cake. Kids and young adults can take charge of their own destiny and fulfill their potential in so many meaning ways and I’m glad you’re helping to guide them.

    Thank you Jane,

    Brian

    • BRIAN, UNDERNEATH THE ‘SANDRA DEE PERFECT’ LAY A GIRL WHO WAS REPEATEDLY INCESTED BY HER FATHER. WE WERE BOTH UNDER CONTACT TO WARNER BROTHERS AT THE SAME TIME. SHE AS SO INSECURE AND SELF-HATING SHE WOULD ARRIVE AT THE STUDIO FOR MAKEUP ALREADY FULLING MADE UP–COULDN’T LET ANYONE SEE HER ‘REAL FACE.’ SO MUCH FOR WHAT LOOKS LIKE PERFECT ON THE SURFACE.

  7. Jane,

    It’s great to see you’ve remained committed to empowering youth. Keep up the great work. I will spread the word about this book.

    ~An old friend.

  8. Hi Jane,

    Excellent that you’ve written a book on this subject. I HATED being a teenager. I was so happy as a child and then I started growing up. I lived in a small valley in Wales, desperately wanted to get out and see the big, wide world, but not knowing how to get there. Being irritated by everything changing around me, my body, my moods, my feelings etc. and not knowing what to do about it. I would have loved a reference book on it. I’m a very happy adult, but I despised those years because I thought being unhappy was normal in the adult world and this is what my life would now be like. Picasso said that it takes a long time to become young, which is so true.

    By the way, it didn’t help that when I was twelve I went to America on holiday and saw On Golden Pond and thought that your teenage stepson was so cool and he knew what being a teenager was about. I went back to Wales thoroughly depressed because I wanted to be a teenager in the US because it seemed so much better. Well, actually I wanted to be that American boy! How funny when you look back.

    Good luck with the book.
    Take care
    Jason

  9. Dear Jane,

    You continue to make such a positive impact on our culture. Thank you. I am looking forward to reading this book — and gifting it to my niece, on her birthday in December 2014 (she’s going to be thirteen years old — where does the time go?).

    In many ways, I feel like I am just exiting my adolescence. 38 going on 20. Depression, family turmoil, a difficult coming out process and trust issues prevented me from having a voice. Nobody seemed willing and/or able to reach me. I slipped through the cracks and, eventually, found my escape from reality/responsibility.

    I don’t want that to happen to the next generation in my family. I seek to be a strong, compassionate, empathetic resource and guide — and role model — to my niece and nephew as they navigate the lonely/scary/challenging/exciting/fun/rewarding/confusing/dangerous/sad terrain that I essentially faced alone. I am sure your wise words will be a help — they always are!

    Be well!!
    In peace, love and understanding
    Peter

  10. While reading your book recently, My Life So Far, I felt as if I had made a new friend. I am thrilled to find your blog and am excited about your work with teens. God’s blessings in all you do and may He surround you with all those who will be a blessing and encouragement to you each day….

  11. What are some of your favorite Oscar nominated movies and performances for this year?

  12. How cool is that?

  13. Hey Jane,

    Just wanted to say thank you for everything you’ve done with your life. I’m a 50 year old male, and feel that my new life has started at 50. One of growing wisdom, enlightenment, and a continued desire to stay connected to every one and every thing around me. To quote Mother Theresa, I believe that we all belong to each other.

    Anyway, I hope you don’t think I’m a Freakazoid (although some may consider that debatable), but if at all possible, I would like to meet you for lunch or dinner. Very important that it be my treat. I don’t know what your travel itinerary is, or where you reside, but if it’s at all possible, it would mean a great deal to me. I’d love to sit down to a great meal (organic and/or vegan?) and talk to you about your passions, your beliefs, and your vision of how we can progress towards making the world a better place.

    I would just like to have the opportunity to shake your hand, give you a big hug, and show my appreciation for your work and for your compassion towards others. Sometimes we just need to take a moment and genuinely thank and appreciate each other.

    If you need to run an FBI check and/or full body scan I will submit!! But if it gets leaked about the mole on my left ass cheek shaped like Madagascar, I will hold you personally responsible…..

    Much Love,

    Ralph Gorgoglione

    • Thanks, Ralph. It won’t be able to happen but I appreciate the feeling behind your request.xx

  14. It’s OK. My heart is broken, it’s a crushing blow, and the disappointment is unbearable. Excuse me, I’m getting a little moist…….talks’t amongst ya’selves……

    (Are you buying any of that by chance?)

    OMG! I just chatted with Jane Fonda! And I got two “xx”‘s! Somebody pinch me!

    Breathe….

  15. Jane,

    As all other posts just to appreciate your MAGINIFICENT work.
    I am looking forward to read this book I am also working for the past year in talks to parents for same issues.
    what strikes to me is that there is way more to protect and teach our young from that we realised.
    Parenting is a mayor key factor these days. And I am committed to create an awareness .
    My work is based on research .I am not an expert, I am an Architect as my passion also this passion for the young it breaks my heart seeing little child bodies exposed to sex activity pornographic material and they don’t even know how to handle the emotions that this brings.
    So as you say and I share, is this conciseness with information that our children need help on.
    Your work is one of my references in my research.
    Thank you for this.

    Loves,

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.