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It got better, really. I sensitively conveyed the news as I had heard it, being sure to acknowledge the courage that it takes to be responsible and life-giving when our culture makes it so easy to do otherwise. I talked about the proper place for intimacy between adults — within the commitment of marriage — and the possible life-changing outcomes when teens get too serious and too physical before it’s appropriate.

It was a great talk, actually, even if it was one neither of us wanted to have. When it was over, Amy said she probably wouldn’t be watching much of “Zoey 101” anymore. She didn’t think she could look at the teen star in the same way.

Nickelodeon will have some damage control to do if Amy’s response is typical, and already it seems to be heading in that direction.

Capitalizing on its already successful “Nick News” feature with veteran newswoman Linda Ellerbee, Nickelodeon may work up a TV special for children on love and sex, addressing such questions as “How do you know you’re in love?” and “When is the right time to have a sexual relationship?” Miss Ellerbee says it’s especially important to listen to children as we work through these issues.

Listening to children is a great idea, but let’s face it: I could barely get my 10-year-old to stay in the room for a conversation about teen pregnancy. It made her uncomfortable, and thank goodness for that.

With all due respect to Miss Ellerbee, maybe we have spent too much time already listening to children and validating their feelings about sexuality.

Instead, I think it’s time to be sure we’ve put a moral compass in their hands and shown our children how to find true north.

Columnist Marybeth Hicks, a wife of 20 years and mother of four children, lives in the Midwest. She is the author of “The Perfect World Inside My Minivan One Mom’s Journey Through the Streets of Suburbia,” a compilation of her columns. She uses her column to share her perspective on issues and experiences that shape families nationwide. Visit her Web site ( or send e-mail to marybeth.hicks@