Your beautiful 16-year-old daughter has just confirmed your suspicions. She is in fact having a relationship with Keith, the 27-year-old cousin of her best friend. You could feel your head spinning and your legs turning to jelly and your hand reaching for the tranquillisers.
What is it about this situation that upsets parents so much? Are they overreacting or is there potential danger for your child?
“It is understandable that parents are worried in this situation,” says Cape Town psychologist, Ilse Terblanche. “There are a number of things about it that could be potentially harmful.”Your child not an equal
"The first, and most important, is that your child is having a relationship with someone, who, because he is older, is more powerful and has more resources than the child or her peers. She is not in an equal decision-making position, and because of the age difference, will easily be dictated to, often assuming that her boyfriend is right, because he is older. He, because he has more money than people her own age, will also easily impress her by doing something as simple as buying her a movie ticket or a pair of shoes.”Older boyfriend a status symbol?
“Parents are worried about the fact that the process of exposure to the adult world becomes speeded up, and not on your daughter’s terms or at the pace she might have chosen. Having an older boyfriend is a status symbol amongst older adolescents, because it sends a message to her peers that she is grown-up and already part of a world they are merely fantasising about. It does seem a bit silly to be worrying about her Science test, when her boyfriend is agonising about a large contract he is negotiating. So, in a way, her reality becomes denigrated and downplayed, further reducing her power in the relationship.”The power struggle with the parents
“Thirdly, there is the issue of the power struggle with the parents. Few parents will be happy with a situation like this, and these relationships often happen when a child is at that juncture between childhood and adulthood. This relationship challenges the parents’ power and their world view and perceptions, and the boyfriend becomes an ally for the child against the parents. He might also pressurise her to go against their wishes, which in a way, reduces both the child’s support structure and her parents’ hold on her. They look like old-fashioned party poopers, because they are objecting to this relationship, which further strengthens the boyfriend’s hold over their daughter,” according to Terblanche.
“However, parents should not be scared to lay down the law while their child is still at school and living with them. Explain your concerns, and stress that it is not a personal thing. Prepare yourself for some tantrums.”
“Talk to the boyfriend, and explain that you only have your child’s best interests at heart. If he is really serious about her, he will fall in with your rules, because, if he really does love her, he will also have her best interests at heart. And part of that should be not wanting to come between her and her parents.”
For more about teens and older men, visit Health24
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