I (15) am not allowed to smoke in Germany. Why not? What is the Jugendschutzgesetz (youth protection act)?

The youth protection act is intended to protect children and young people from harm.
It applies in particular in public, meaning outside your home.
Adults may not allow children and young people to do some things here.
If they do, the adult can be given a penalty.

The law differentiates between children and young people.

What is forbidden for you?
You may not be in restaurants or pubs after 11 pm.
You may not play gambling games for money.
You may not drink alcohol and you may not smoke.
You may not buy or rent films which are not ‘approved’.

Each film is assigned an age rating. If you are younger than this rating you may not watch the film.
This is on the packaging.
These rules also apply to games consoles, computer and mobile phone games.

Take a look here to find out more:
For adults: you can order the law in different languages for young people here:

I (girl, 15 years old) am not allowed out by myself. If my girl friends are doing something I have to say no or take my brother with me. What can I do?

You can try to talk to your parents.
Because: it is your right to do things by yourself.
There are children’s rights.
These rights apply to all children and young people in the entire world.
You can explain three of these rights to your parents.

You have the right to be treated equally!
That means: you must be treated just like your brother.
You have the right to free time and relaxation!
That means: you can also decide yourself what you do in your free time.
You have the right to privacy!
That means: you also need to have time to yourself and with your girl friends.

Maybe your parents are not listening to you.
Maybe you don’t have the confidence to talk about it with them.
In that case you can go to a help centre.
You can get advice here if you have problems.
The consultants here can talk to you together with your parents.
You can find a help centre here, for example:
If you enter your address you can find a centre close to you.

I am a 14 year old boy. If I do something wrong, my father hits me. I have a lot of respect for my father. However, I want him to stop it. How can I tell him?

Firstly we would like to tell you something:
It is forbidden to hit children in Germany.
The law states:
Children have a right to be brought up without violence.
Parents may not intentionally injure their children.
They may not physically injure them.
And they may not injure them psychologically.
Hitting causes injury to the body and the psyche.

That is your right as the child of your parents.
This law exists to ensure children can grow up healthily.
You may say this.

If you are unable to talk to your father by yourself there are also help centres.
In Munich you can find a help centre close to your home: http://www.muenchen.de/dienstleistungsfinder/muenchen/1053/
Children and young people across Germany can call the Nummer gegen Kummer: 116111
You can call this number for free from your mobile phone.
There are people there from 2 pm until 8 pm who you can talk to.

I often have stomach pains or headaches. I just feel generally unwell. The doctor can’t help me. Now I am supposed to go to psychotherapy. Am I crazy?

You are not crazy.
There are some illnesses where medicine helps.
Or you need to start eating or drinking something different to make you feel better.
Then there are illnesses where it isn’t clear what can help.

This is the case with stomach-aches or headaches, for example.
The doctor is trying to find out the reason for your pain.
This can be quite difficult sometimes as the reason could be psychological.

If she can’t find anything wrong with you herself she sends you to a therapist.
Therapists are psychologists who talk to you a lot.
They try to find out the reason for your pain together with you.
This can be good for you.

There are lots of reasons for pain:
Pain can also result from worry, fear or great misfortune. Or by something terrible you have experienced in the past.
Therapy should make it clear why you have pain.
And how to stop your pain.
Get well soon!

My mum and grandma say: “If a girl sits with her legs apart that means she is not a virgin anymore.” Is that true?

You cannot tell something like that by the way a person sits.
That is something older generations used to believe years ago.
Because they wanted girls to sit with their legs together.

There are lots of similar stories (myths):
For example: “if girls ride bicycles they are no longer virgins.”
Or: “girls shouldn’t jump as it will tear their hymen.”

These sayings can be confusing for girls.
They restrict girls in their movement or behaviour.
Some girls become scared to behave in certain ways.

There are similar opinions about periods and pregnancy:
For example: “if a woman has her period she should not wash as she could become ill.”
Or: “women can get pregnant in the swimming pool without having sex.”

These sayings are not correct.
If you are a girl it is best to ask your gynaecologist.
She can provide you with the correct information about this topic.

My parents say I (16) have to be careful with my German girl friends. They have already all had sex with boys. Are my parents right?

We don’t know if your girl friends have already had sex.
Sex can be done in different ways.
Let’s look at ‘intercourse’.
Intercourse means: the penis is pushed into the girl’s vagina.

So what do most girls and boys in Germany do?
Lots of young people are asked regularly.
They answer anonymously: that means they do not give their names.

Imagine a school class with 10 boys and 10 girls the same age as you.
Only four of these girls have already had sex.
That means: six girls are still waiting a bit longer to try sex.
It’s very similar for 16 year old boys.
Here, too, only four boys have already had sex.

Most young people are still waiting for the right partner.
Some are worried about getting pregnant.
Some are still too young or afraid of their parents.
Every girl or boy should only do what is right for them.

I have recently started growing hair on my face (boy, 14). My voice is strange. It’s embarrassing.

You are worried because your body is changing.
But that’s completely normal: you are growing up.

Your body is now producing sexual hormones.
These hormones are new information for your body.
They are telling it what needs to change.
They are slowly turning your body into a grown-up’s body.
This period of change is called ‘puberty’.

You start growing hair in your armpits and genital area.
You start growing beard hair, which you can shave off or leave to grow.
Your voice changes from a child’s voice to a man’s voice.
You experience ejaculations.
That means: fertile semen comes out of your penis.
This change doesn’t happen overnight, it takes a bit of time.

And: the hormones make you feel things very strongly.
Sometimes you will feel very sad, sometimes very angry and sometimes very happy.
This is all part of puberty and part of growing up.
This change in feelings will calm down again at some point.

There is a 17 year old girl in my class. She told us that she is actually a boy. I find it confusing! How should I act around her?

It is completely understandable that you are confused.
I suspect many young people feel the same way.
She has told you something important about herself: she feels she is a boy.
Her physical gender is not the gender she feels she is.

We would like to explain it to you:
Who are you? How do you perceive yourself? This is your ‘identity’.
‘Gender identity’ means what gender you consider yourself to be.
If the gender you feel yourself to be does not match your physical gender it is called:
‘Trans-identity’ or ‘Trans-gender’.
That means some girls feel they are boys.
And some boys feel they are girls.
Some people are also born ‘inter-sexual’.
That means their body is neither clearly male nor female.
Some of these people do not feel they are male or female.
So you see: there are a lot of different gender identities!
The best thing to do is to continue treating him as you did before.
Or you can ask what she or he would prefer.
For example, how she or he would like to be addressed.