I have a daughter who is almost fifteen who has a boyfriend who is almost eighteen years old. I don’t know if it is best to accept him, since she trusted me enough to tell me about it, even though the guy didn’t want her to tell us out of fear that we would not accept him. I think that he may not be a bad guy, but on the other hand I don’t know if it is right to approve of their relationship because of the age difference.

Dear Friend,

You have obviously done a lot of things right! Your daughter told you about the relationship even though her boyfriend didn’t want her to tell you! That is very rare in a young teenager, and it shows that your daughter probably has an exceptional amount of maturity and wisdom for her age. It also shows that she trusts you and that your opinion matters to her. We congratulate you!

Please read Case 217 at www.message2conscience.com to consider some general suggestions about adolescent relationships. You are not alone in your struggle to balance relationships with rules.

If your daughter were ten years older, a three-year-age difference would be of little importance. So the problem is not so much the age difference as it is the unequal developmental stages of your daughter and her boyfriend. She is barely past childhood, while he has almost reached adulthood.

It is your responsibility to protect your daughter, and it would be best if you could control where she goes, what she does, and whom she sees. However, you should never think that you can control her heart. Parents make a tactical error when they demand that their children not feel the way that the children say that they feel. That is the fastest route toward having a lying and rebellious adolescent.

Instead of trying to control your daughter’s feelings, we suggest that you set up very clear parameters for her behavior. Because your daughter has shown maturity and honesty up to this point, you have reason to trust her. So invite the guy over to your house and have a man-to-man talk with him. Tell him that you are fine with him visiting your daughter in the public areas of your home when an adult is present. Say that you are choosing to give him a chance to live within your guidelines, and as long as he follows the guidelines, you will not oppose him.

Explain that your daughter cannot go out with him until she is sixteen (or whatever age you have determined). Until she is that age, she must have adult supervision at all times. Tell him you will also be supervising all of her social media, her computer, and her cell phone (if she has one). And let him know that if you find out that the two of them are sneaking around to see each other without your permission, your daughter will have her privileges restricted and the two of them will have lost your trust.

Being a parent is not easy, especially of a teenager. Pray every day that God will give you the wisdom you need to make the right decisions. With his help and guidance, it will be easier.

We wish you the best,