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Challenge: Finding Your Voice as a Parent

My 15-year-old daughter is dating an 18-year-old boy. What should I do?

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Building our children's confidence in knowing that they understand right from wrong is one of our hardest jobs as a parent. If we have talked openly with our child, teaching and instilling basic values for years of honesty, courtesy, respect and personal responsibility- then now is the time to show your trust in all they have been taught. Set the rules and make sure they are obeyed. If you find that they have not learned these basic values then maybe you need to pull back and continue teaching. Show your child that you are the trusted and calm starting place of information on difficult topics and she can talk comfortably about her situations at any time. This is the best we can give our kids as their parent.

My 15 year old is dating an 18 year old online….its really hard to be ok with online dating but we can not force our children to do anything once they are at the age where we are no longer in control of their movements. I believe strongly that my job as a parent is to guide her and give her all the tools at my disposal to become a successful, decent human being that contributes to the world around her.

She came to us and said she was interested in him and that he was older than her. My ex-husband (we co-parent) wanted to say absolutely not, I convinced him that might not be the best approach for a couple of reasons;

  1. He, the boy, needs to know that her parents are involved, she is not alone and he will have people to answer to if he mistreats her.
  2. She needs to know that we are involved and if she needs us, there will not be the added dilemma of having to tell us the truth if she is in trouble or needs help dealing with the relationship.
  3. Any excitement that might go with keeping something from us is eliminated, if she really likes him and it is a good relationship it will develop unfettered, if not it will fizzle (which has already started after 5 months)
  4. They really will do it anyway….not a reason to give permission on something you believe in principle but a reality.

We met him, I am very open with people so we told him in no uncertain terms that we are concerned about the age gap and he needs to remember that she is 15, that he is dealing with our daughter and we expect him to treat her well, we expect them to tell her father and I the truth about their time together and if anything should happen to her while she is with him, we only ask that he do everything he can to protect her (driving responsibly, leaving situations that are dangerous etc.). We also said that until we got to know him, and them as a couple, they would not be allowed to spend time alone (in the house without parental supervision) and that they can not go anywhere in his car until we give permission, after about 3–4 weeks we allowed him to pick her up and take her to his house (with his parents home, we spoke to them too) on his own. Now having said all of that, we know that there are most likely things that they have done, places they have gone that we are unaware of but again we can’t control them. I am very open with my daughter about sex and the ramifications of it and she is now on the pill.

Is this an ideal situation, no, do I think this is the only way to handle this, no. I do not like the idea of her going out with an 18 year old (he is a child himself really but that doesn’t change the fact that they both have raging hormones that they don’t have a handle on just yet, and I don’t mean just sex, they are still trying to regulate their emotions in general). However, this approached helps us to know “most” of what our daughter is up to and I think it is the best way to allow her to grow while still protecting her until she is better equipped to protect herself.

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