Parenting

“My Teenage Daughter Is Dating A Middle-aged Man And I Don’t Know What To Do!”

How do you even begin to tame the gazillion emotions surging in your head?

By The Weekly | April 3, 2018

A reader shares how she’s coping with her daughter’s unusual relationship and why she’s wary of the huge age gap between her teen and her partner of choice:

Over the Christmas holidays my 18-year-old daughter, Claire, brought her boyfriend home to meet her father and myself for the first time.

She’d already told us that she’d been dating him since early November, and that he’s 50 years old working in a local restaurant. She also revealed he’s unmarried, has no kids, and is a non-practising Christian.

Based on this information we knew straight away that these two were not together for ‘the money’, given his job and where he lives.

Claire said she liked him because he was gentle, funny and they had similar tastes in music.

The meal went OK – even pleasant. We didn’t act judgmental, but still I couldn’t stop thinking about the age gap. He’s 33 years older than her and four years older than her dad!

Later, Claire told us this man is her soulmate. She wants to marry him in two years when she graduates from university, and she wants to have his kids despite what anyone else thinks – including her parents.

Whether it’s at 18 years old or even older, it’s a well-established fact that women are generally attracted to older men. Here are some ways to deal with a teenager who wants to start dating, no matter what age:

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Don’t freak out
Freaking out will just lead to tension with your teen. Recognise that dating is a normal and natural part of your teen’s growth and that forbidding him or her from seeing the person they desire will just drive them further into that person’s arms. Be calm and talk to your teen objectively.

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Define a healthy relationship for them
Teach your teen about the foundations of a healthy relationship: Respect, mutual understanding, trust, honesty, communication, and support. They should leave the conversation understanding that a good partner will accept them as they are, support their personal choices, and praise them for their achievements.

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Address the issue sensitively
Yes, a teenager may find themselves attracted to an adult but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. Don’t make snarky comments and don’t belittle your teen; this will just infuriate them. Instead, you need to clearly state what your rules are and why, and what consequences there are if rules aren’t followed.

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Talk realistically about sex
While it may be tempting to skip this conversation, it’s in everyone’s best interest to talk to your teen about sex. Ask yourself whether you want your teen to hear this information from you or someone else.

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Explain the difference between infatuation and love
Distinguishing between infatuation and love can be difficult for many adults; imagine how complicated it can be for a teenager who is experiencing many new feelings for the first time. Take a moment to explain to your teen that infatuation is not the same as love.

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Explore options
Once your child has listened and recognised your point of view, it’s time to explore options. Talk through different solutions together. Then, perhaps you can make a suggestion that you both can live with.

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Trust your child
It’s important to understand that your older teen will soon be an adult, and as painful as it may be for you to watch, adults may have to experience failure for them to learn for the future. Recognise that you simply have to trust them and let them make their own decisions at some point.

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Offer your support
Be sure to let your teen know you support him or her in the dating process. Tell your teen you can drop off or pick up him or her, lend a compassionate and supportive ear when necessary. However you intend to support your teen, make sure he or she knows that you are available.

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Be respectful
If you communicate with your teen in a gentle, non-obstrusive manner that respects his or her individuality, opinions and beliefs, then your teen will be much more likely do the same for you. This helps to create a healthy and open line of communication.

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Know when to ask for outside help
Seek expert counsellors if you find it hard to communicate with your teen. Teaching your kids what it means to be in a healthy relationship is simply too important a message to leave to chance. A family therapist, for example, can help mediate your conversations and promote healthy behaviours.

 

Text: Holly Royce/bauersyndication.com.au / Additional reporting: Natalya Molok

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