Anna, an adolescent girl, is very much in love with her boyfriend who is three years older than she. He is putting a lot of pressure on her to have sex. At the same time, she is anxious about her parents’ attitude towards her boyfriend. Her mother constantly warns her about dating an older boy and assumes that he intends to take advantage of her.
Young Anna is experiencing new emotions along with new physical sensations triggered by hormones and the lives of her peers. There are several topics Anna needs to discuss in order to make the best decision without feeling uncomfortable or forced by her parents, her boyfriend, or even her therapist.
Anna needs to discuss the difference between what she is feeling now versus how she will feel as an adult, once the hormone levels have evened out. It is important for her to understand that what she thinks may be a long term, emotional, attachment, may end much sooner than she think and that making a decision based on these emotion may end up causing her emotional pain. By explaining to Anna that, if the love is as strong as she believes it to be, her relationship will last long enough for her to be able to make this decision without all of the physical, emotional, and peer pressure she may feel more comfortable in waiting to make such a major move with her boyfriend.
Anna is feeling pressure from her boyfriends and may fear the relationship will end if she does not have sex with him. Anna and her therapist need to take time to discuss how she sees herself and how she feels others view her. With a higher self esteem, Anna may come to understand that she doesn’t have to give in to his pressure and, if the relationship does end, that she will have plenty of chances to find someone else who she will see as just as good, or better, than her current boyfriend. Raising her self esteem may also help her feel more confident in making decision that may go against what her peers are doing or trying to convince her to do. If she can feel strong in her decisions, there may be less of a chance of others changing her mind simply because “everyone else is doing it”.
Many adolescents may believe that engaging in sexual activities makes them more mature or helps them reach adulthood faster than others. Helping Anna understand the truth about what sex may or may not change about her body and personality could give her a better understanding about herself and her peers as she tries to make the difficult decisions that come with growing up. It may also help calm some fears that she may have about sexuality that she may have receive from listening to misinformed peers.
Contraception and Sexually Transmitted Infections
Whatever Anna decides, she needs to know how to protect herself from unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Since there are many myths on how to prevent pregnancy and STIs, she needs to know the truth so she can avoid potentially dangerous or negatively life altering situations. With this knowledge, Anna may decide to wait until she has more understanding or, at least, until she can feel sure that sex with her boyfriend is safe and they are both willing and able to take on the responsibilities of contraception, or of raising a child if they choose not to prevent pregnancy.
Whatever Anna decides, the best thing is that she makes an informed decision. With proper knowledge, she can prevent much of the emotional and physical pain that can come from a misinformed decision and possibly even decide to wait until her body, and her emotions are fully matured and she is truly ready to take on the responsibility of sexual activity. Her therapist needs to help her communicate openly about her fears, wants, and needs and show her what she needs to be happy and healthy through this stressful and confusing time in her life. Before and after Anna decides, she needs someone who is well informed to speak to openly about sex and the different feelings that come along with each activity.
Rathus, S. A., Nevid, J.S., and Fichner-Rathus, L. (2005). Human sexuality in a world of diversity. (6th ed.) Boston: Allyn and Bacon.