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Thursday, 22 March 2001

Fifteen-Year-Old Likes Older Men

Written by  Naomi Baum, PhD.

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QDear WholeFamily Counselor,
I have a 15-year-old daughter who seems to rather enjoy the company of older men.... some as much as seven years older. I believe this age gap at this young age is not acceptable. However, she feels she can have friends of any age. I don't think this is only a FRIEND! How can I convince her it is not a good idea and that the consequences could be devastating? She believes her older friends are totally harmless and would never do anything to hurt her, use or abuse her. I have explained how older MEN have been around and are quite capable of manipulating a young girl who has not been around, how they know just what to say to get what ever they want...etc. I could really use your help.

AYour concern for your daughter is both on target and a sign of responsible parenting. While a 15-year-old would like you to think that she can make all her own decisions, she is still a child, and still living in your house. When she is 18, finished with school, and moves on, she will make almost all of her own decisions. At 15, she still needs you and your limits.

You are certainly within your rights to tell her that her behavior is unacceptable. How you can enforce your rule is another question. You can be upfront with her and tell her that you need to rely on her honesty and truthfulness and you hope she will not let you down. Your ability to rely on her is, of course, based on the kind of relationship you have with her and have had with her until now.

You can certainly understand, and perhaps even remember yourself, how exciting it is to be attracted to and be found attractive by "older men." For your daughter, this may be one of the signs that she is growing up and becoming an adult. While you can empathize and talk with her about it, you may also set limits. I am sure she knows the rules about curfew, smoking and drinking. Dating men who are so much older than her falls in that category. You may explain to her that when she becomes an adult (18? 21?) she will be independent and will make her own decisions.

IT CAN BE HARD TO DO WHAT'S RIGHT

There is no question that putting your foot down is not always an easy thing to do. Sometimes, it seems that as a parent, it is easier to "go with the flow," and allow your child what he or she wants, or thinks she wants. The easy route is often a mistake. Sticking up for what you believe, think, or even your gut feeling is, to my way of thinking, the right thing to do.

Your daughter may fight you on this, be angry with you, or even give you the "silent treatment" for several days. Try to keep communication lines open with her. Tell her you know how upset she is, and how angry she is at you. This is something you can live with and her anger will pass. She may never acknowledge out loud that you were right. Don't wait for that. Try to get beyond this issue and resume your relationship with her.

Good luck, and let me know what happens.

Last modified on Thursday, 22 March 2012 16:43
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Naomi Baum, PhD.

Naomi Baum, PhD.

Naomi Baum is the Director of the Resilience Unit at The Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma and the National School Resilience Project. Her work at ICTP focuses on developing programs to build resilience in communities that have been highly exposed to trauma and stress. She has successfully brought her approach to Biloxi, Mississippi in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Her work there included seven visits to the city, she trained teachers, social workers, school nurses, and counselors. She has also worked with the population in Haiti following teh earthquake. She has written about Trauma and Resilience in several published articles and books.

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