| 13.4°C Dublin

Dear Rosanna: Is my boyfriend a sex addict?

Rosanna looks at sex-chat lines cause strife, a teen seeks independence, a mum advocates the pill and a girl wants to dye her hair

Q My boyfriend ran up a large telephone bill from ringing the sex-chat lines they advertise on TV.

He has asked me to understand that it was just a bit of fun, and to support him as there is war in his house, as his parents have banned him from using the phone. We are both aged 18 and have been having sex for the past few months, so why does he need to ring these lines? Is he a sex addict?

A I'm not qualified to confirm whether or not your boyfriend is a sex addict, but I would be particularly concerned about his behaviour. These tacky sex-line adverts on TV are clearly designed to appeal to the most vulnerable viewers, whether they're lonely, bored or simply young and curious. No matter what, they charge a fortune for the service and, in my opinion, it should be avoided under all circumstances.

It is entirely understandable that his parents have banned him from using the telephone, as they must have received quite a shock when they saw the bill. You're now torn between trying to support him and wondering what is morally correct.

If I were you, I would be pretty disgusted that my boyfriend had been behaving like this behind my back, and I'm sure he can find his 'fun' in other ways. However, he's young and has made a mistake, and no doubt feels remorseful towards you and his family.

My advice now is to focus on how to deal with the motivations behind it. Why did he feel the need to ring sex-chat lines? Speak to him about it and explain how confused you feel. He may well benefit from speaking to a sex therapist, who will help him understand why he felt the need to do it and to help ensure he avoids future temptations.

Q My parents won't accept that I don't want to go on holidays with them and my younger brother and sister this summer? I am 16 and plan on getting a part-time job to earn some money to go towards buying a car next year. My parents tell me I am too young to be left alone. How can I change their minds before they make a booking?

A As a 16-year-old keen on developing your independence, it's entirely understandable that you would prefer not to accompany your parents on holiday. It's natural to want to earn your own money, too, and having a focus like saving up to purchase a car is an excellent motivator.

But as you're not yet an adult, I agree with your parents that you are a little too young to be left alone in the house. What if something were to happen that you wouldn't have the knowledge or experience to deal with? There's also the issue of security. It would be ideal if you were able to come to a compromise with your parents.

See if you could stay with a friend or relative for the duration of their holiday, or as an even better alternative, see if an older family friend or relative would be willing to stay with you in your family home for the week or two.

Q I am upset that my 18-year-old daughter was given the morning-after pill in a chemist. She argues that this is her entitlement -- though where she got the money, as it cost her more than €40, I don't know. I have tried to tell her that if she is going to have sex then at least she needs to be taking the pill. She says taking the pill sends out the wrong message to boys. I am at a loss as to what to do.

A As your daughter is 18 and therefore legally an adult, I feel that it is her responsibility to take the necessary procedures when it comes to her sex life. She probably borrowed the money from a friend and, predicting how you may react, decided to tell you afterwards.

I don't entirely blame her either, as she must have been in a scary situation, but I feel it's important for you to work with your daughter in cultivating a more understanding relationship. As her mother, it's natural to feel anger and upset at such a situation, but if you work on showing more empathy towards her and let her know that you were also once a teenager going through the same things as her, she will hopefully be more likely to seek your advice in future.

As for the pill, I agree with you entirely that she should think seriously about taking it. But the pill can only help prevent a pregnancy, it will not protect against sexually transmitted diseases, so it is crucial that your daughter also ensures that her partner wears a condom. I disagree that taking the pill sends out the wrong message to boys; it demonstrates maturity and responsibility in a culture where teenage pregnancies and STDs are fairly widespread.

Q Should I dye my hair blonde? I really want to as my eyes are blue and I think I will look much better as a blonde. Yet my hair is naturally dark, and I am afraid the cost of keeping my roots from showing will be way beyond what I can afford. I think your hair is fab. I am 15.

A It's difficult to advise you properly, as I have no idea about your skin tone or how dark your natural hair is. I love how blue eyes and dark hair look on women, especially if they're lucky enough to have creamy, pale skin. It's a classic Irish combination and one which is celebrated globally.

So, if I were you, I wouldn't be overly keen to change myself too drastically. You're young and experimentation with your looks is natural, but you must also consider the realities of changing your hair colour. The costs of maintaining blonde hair can be huge, and coloured hair requires much greater care, as there's the danger you may be left with damaged tresses.

My advice, if you remain keen to try a blonder look, is to gently experiment with natural caramel-colour highlights just to give your own colour a lift. Work towards lightening it gradually as summer approaches, but always ensure you go to a reputable salon, and research and compare prices before you commit to anything.