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Read on for experts' and parents' best advice on getting these crucial conversations going.

Lerner adds that when parents admit that they've made mistakes, that it hasn't always been easy to live up to their own values, kids are actually more likely to believe them.

With her own children, Lerner said, "I did some dumb things in college, and I regret them, and here's why."Next: Dollars and cents may not sound like life and death, but kids find plenty of ways to mess up seriously with money.

But too often parents don't address these issues while kids are still at home.

"Many parents are insecure about their own financial knowledge, so they don't know how to frame their advice, or where to begin," says Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, president of the Charles Schwab Foundation.

Talking tips: To get the conversation going, start involving your teen in the family's financial life.

That doesn't require revealing the nitty-gritty details of your income and debt load, but you can, for instance, let your kid see you paying bills on Saturday morning, and invite her input on budgeting decisions.Where drugs and drinking, money management, and sex are concerned, parents have to make sure kids really get — and understand — the information and the guidance they need to negotiate these thorny issues on their own. A whopping 82 percent of parents say it's important to talk to teens about sex, for example, but admit they have no clue when or how to do it, reported a 2007 survey by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.But here's an incentive to figure out a way to talk to your teen about condoms and keg parties: "Kids really want their parents to talk to them about issues like this," says Richard M. D., professor of child development at Tufts University and author of The Good Teen: Rescuing Adolescence from the Myths of the Storm and Stress Years.Only a quarter of teens have any clue how credit card interest works — which may explain why the average college student carries nearly ,000 in credit card debt.And a bad credit rating can affect a kid's ability to buy a car or a house, or even to get a job."I wanted them to see firsthand the harmful consequences of the bad choices these people made."Lecturing doesn't help kids internalize this kind of lesson, says Pasierb, but give-and-take does.