My daughter is 16, dating a boy who’s turning 20 in a month. He drives a muscle car and lives with a roommate. My daughter who is sometimes mature beyond her years, wise beyond her years, is also emotionally a 16 year old.
The thing is, I trust her!! I feel ok with it. I met him and feel she can do worse. My wife says that seeing a boy over 18 should be a hard no. I’m judged by my friends for allowing this. But I’m not actually even second guessing my decision. But I do wonder if that’s being a bad father? Should I not allow this? I know what he’s doing is technically criminal. Is what I’m doing criminal for condoning it? (Part 3)
Continued from last week…
On a much simpler level, an example of this recently came up in my own family. My fiance and I have a mixed, blended family with kids ranging from 5 to 17. My 13-year-old daughter was in a relationship - they have since broken up and gone their separate ways. My wife and I had to go out for the evening, leaving the two of them alone in our house. I trust my daughter and didn't think twice about it. My fiance also trusts my daughter, but recognized some feelings of discomfort around leaving the two alone for almost 2 hours. We acknowledged and spoke truth to our feelings and perspectives before making a joint decision. Ultimately, we decided to leave the two of them alone, but I was willing to make adjustments to make sure my partner felt seen, supported, and heard. This is a simple example, but one that highlights the differing perspectives and beliefs parents can have when it comes to raising their children. More important than the circumstances of a disagreement is the process you both agree to that integrates mutual respect, attunement, joint decision-making, and child-focused solutions. Boundaries and clear expectations help everyone to show up in the best way. There will be countless opportunities for parents to have differences of opinion when it comes to their children, which includes stepchildren, adopted children, foster children, etc., but what remains imperative throughout all of them is a process or plan to ensure everyone in the family feels seen, supported, and heard. When anyone is left voiceless, it sends a message that their voice does not matter. It is a surefire way to make somebody feel invisible and grow further resentments.
These parenting decisions, boundaries, and expectations are all deeply personal and have to be in alignment with your family, your principles and philosophies, and the culture you are trying to create. When you include your partner in your decision making, you send a message to them that they matter. When you set clear boundaries, it shows kindness. When you support your daughter’s autonomy and keep an open dialogue, it shows her that you trust her, and she can trust herself. If your daughter gets hurt during this relationship, you have an opportunity to support her back on to her feet and build her resilience. These are all opportunities to show up in meaningful ways. Life is not about black and white decisions or clear cut delineations on what you “should” and “should not” do. It is an ever-changing, always flowing dynamic. It is a dance that is conducted in the grey. When we open up to the possibility that all of this is a representation of life, and prime material to learn and grow from, we surrender to the flow of life and learn to intuit more easily on how to best support one another. I trust you - you’ve got this!
With love and light,
John Moos, MD
The Westside Current has partnered with Dr. John Moos to bring you the weekly column, Dear John. Dear John is as a safe place for you to bring your (sometimes) messy, complicated questions, stories and experiences. All content submitted and shared are protected, confidential and anonymous. Send your questions to email@example.com.
Lisa Damour, Ph.D. - specializes in understanding teenage girls
Hold On To Your Kids by Gabor Mate, M.D., and Gordon Neufeld, Ph.D.