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Adolescent Sexuality Counseling

Adolescents are often sexually active, a reality that parents, doctors and adolescents themselves are not always comfortable addressing. Sexual behavior does not start during adolescence or adulthood, but with childhood sexual curiosity and interest in one's own body and the bodies of one's peers. Even very young adolescents are interested in "how things work" and are exposed to a wide range of sexual topics through friends, school, and the media. Although problems arise during adolescence from lack of information, more confusion and difficulties stem from inexperience with sexuality and lack of decision-making skills. It is essential to understand sexuality during the teenage period and to be familiar with ways to deal with teenagers' questions, feelings, and problems.

Adolescent Sexual Development

Pre Adolescence

  • A low physical and mental investment in sexuality.
  • Collecting of information and myths about sexuality from friends, school and family is common.
  • Physical appearance is prepubertal.

Early Adolescence

  • Physical maturation starts.
  • Extreme concern and curiosity exists about one's own body and that of one's peers.
  • Sexual fantasies are common and may serve as a source of guilt.
  • Masturbation begins during this period and may be accompanied by guilt.
  • Sexual activities are usually nonphysical. Early adolescents are often highly content with non-sexual interactions such as telephone calls to peers.

Middle Adolescence

  • Full physical maturation is attained and menstruation begins in females.
  • Sexual energy is at a high level, with more emphasis on physical contact.
  • Sexual behavior is of an exploring and exploiting nature.
  • Dating and petting are common, and casual relationships with both nonsocial and coital contact are prevalent.
  • Denial of consequences of sexual behavior is typical.

Late Adolescence

  • Full physical and sociologic maturation.
  • Sexual behavior becomes more expressive and less exploitative.
  • Intimate sharing relationships may develop.
  • How do I deal with anger, rejection, and loneliness.

Adolescents are involved with sexual activity because of peer pressure, in order to experience affection, to feel grown up, to experience closeness, for experimentation and because it feels good.

Why is Adolescent Sexuality a Concern ?

  • There are opposing views of sexuality.
  • There is a body/mind gap.
  • Lack of communication.
  • Media.
  • Peer Pressure.
  • Development stages.
  • Sex Education

Recommendations - Parental or Counselor Skills

  • Trying to understand adolescent attitudes about sex can be frustrating, leading to feelings of anger on the part of the parent or counselor. Communication is enhanced if the parent or counselor tempers his or her own response and tries to listen to and appreciate the adolescent's feelings and concerns regarding sexuality. Although adolescents have control over their own influence -- not through moralizing, lecturing or invasion of privacy, but through helping the adolescent in his or her decision-making process.
  • Timing -- Because sexuality begins in childhood, it is important to treat sexuality as natural part of life from birth onward.
  • Education -- Adolescents should be informed and knowledgeable -- with the aid of parents, school or community resources -- in the following areas: basic reproductive anatomy and physiology.
    • Basic sexual functioning, including common sexual myths and alternatives to intercourse
    • The health consequences of sexual intercourse
    • The relationship between having sex, using birth control, getting pregnant and being a parent
    • The similarities and differences between male and female roles
    • The range of human relationships
    • The components of decision making
    • The importance of self-esteem and of respecting one's choices
    • Available resources to utilize to answer concerns, questions or problems
  • Do Not Joke - Adolescents are uncomfortable about sexuality, and joking about the subject only heightens their discomfort.
  • Admit Personal Discomfort - Adolescents respect honesty, and this approach will often allow for additional trust between the adolescent and the parent or counselor.
  • Resources - Be informed about available books, pamphlets and other resources in regard to adolescent sexuality.
  • Privacy - Respect the adolescent's privacy. Although allowing the adolescent to feel comfortable about discussing sexuality, it is important not to pry into details