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Should I Stop My Daughter From Seeing an Older Man? 

Dear Athena,

I was wondering what your stance is on a 16-year-old girl and 23-year-old guy dating. Recently I found out from my daughter's friend that my daughter is seeing a man this old. I don't know if I should stop her from seeing him or what. Please help this single mother.

Signed,

Single Mom

Dear Single Mom,

My stance is, if there's any sexual activity going on between them, that would be illegal in many other states. At 16, your daughter is just old enough to give legal consent in Vermont. Sex or not, her relationship still sounds sketchy AF.

The enormous responsibility of parenting rests solely on your shoulders, and that's not easy. Parenting a teen, especially, comes with a lot of What am I doing? moments. But you know what to do. Just like when your daughter was a baby and didn't have the words to tell you what she needed, you knew. You used your instincts and listened with your heart. Your daughter probably needs you now — your gut is telling you so. It's time to have a real heart-to-heart.

You can't force her to do, or stop doing, anything. But you can give her some facts. Like the fact that her relationship would be illegal in another state, and why those laws exist. ("To protect children and teens ... from confusing and possibly abusive relationships with more powerful adults," writes Slate.) And the fact that there's a huge difference, emotionally and sexually, in those seven years between her and her boyfriend. And the fact that if she thinks her relationship should be a secret, then it's not a healthy relationship. And a whole bunch of facts on sexual health and contraception.

Be your best, most nonjudgmental self. Don't lose your temper or try to control her. Don't make her feel like she's in trouble. Do be a voice of reason, a loving ear, a safe space. Invite her to tell you why she didn't want you to know about her relationship. Help her see why staying with this guy isn't in her best interest.

Most of all, be strong and firm. Remind her that it is your job to help her be safe. Then do all you can to keep her safe.

Yours,

Athena

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