Q&A: My 16-Year-Old Wants to Be in a Relationship! What Do I Do?

Q. My wife wants to invite a nineteen year old young man over for dinner. He works with my sixteen year old daughter and brought her flowers last week. We’ve briefly talked about his interest. She came to Christ last year and she’s a good girl, but I’m just not comfortable with this – I don’t think she’s old enough or mature enough! What should we do?

They grow up fast, don’t they? It can be pretty alarming to suddenly be dealing with grown up situations like this when it seemed like just the other day they were carefree children.

RRM Too Young for a Relationship

There are several ways to handle a situation like this one: 

You can just throw up your hands and let the relationship develop, and hope for the best. You already said you aren’t comfortable with that!

Or you can go all authoritarian and just forbid it. This might work if they were 15 and 12, but they’re not — and even if your daughter isn’t mature enough to get married yet, she’s old enough to think it might work. She’s only a couple of years from being old enough to marry without your approval, too.

And since she’s working with him, she’s going to be seeing him, often, without you being there.

Clearly, whatever course you decide, you’ve got to get her on board or you might create a situation where she’s hiding and sneaking … and that’s dangerous. 

We’d recommend a middle course – one that will preserve your relationship with your daughter, but protect her, too. 
If he’s bringing her flowers, there is no doubt that he’s desiring a romantic relationship and you need to have much more than a brief talk with your daughter. Right off the bat, you’ll need to find out her level of interest and what kind of relationship they already have (things may be farther along than you know!).

Then you need to share your concerns with her and talk it through. A useful thing to do with kids that want to leap into a relationship, but are still a little too young for that to be a good idea, is to take them very seriously and walk through it with them.

It might look like this:

“Okay, honey, so you think this guy might be the one? Let’s talk about how that would work.

“What are your plans for after high school? Are you planning to go to college? What about him?

“When do you think you’d be ready to be a wife and mother?

“What is he doing for a living? How much does he make? Okay, let’s look at what it takes to live around here …

“You could work, too? Better not plan on that. You might have difficult pregnancies or you might figure out — like many new mothers do — that you just can’t leave your baby in a daycare.”

RRM Teen in Relationship with Older Teen
You get the picture. Give her some reality therapy. Help her to realize she’s probably not all that close to being ready for marriage, but that’s what romance is about, that’s what it’s for! And it will give her a framework to think about future relationships for herself. 

Their work situation offers one additional complication — what if the relationship develops into romance (with or without your agreement), and then doesn’t work out? Will your daughter feel awkward going to work around her ex-boyfriend? That might be a question to discuss if it looks like they’re going to become a couple. 

We’ve been privileged to speak to thousands of parents and teens and answer their questions. In our experience, though it’s tempting to just go authoritarian, if you don’t win your older teen to your side, you are courting disaster. She’s not eleven any more. In a couple of years, she can just walk away from you. Build the relationship between the two of you and she’s much more likely to do what you hope she will.

Your friends,Hal and Melanie at Science Museum 150

Hal & Melanie