Adolescent Daughter Involved With an Older Man

Should we let our 16-year-old girl spend time with an older guy? He's 25 and very involved in our church praise band. For the last year he and my daughter have had a fun brother-sister type relationship. He's very likeable and held in high esteem at our church, but for some reason my mother's intuition has kept me on the alert. It's not that I don't trust him – it would be entirely different if they were the same age. Besides, my daughter constantly assures me that they are just friends. Should I be concerned?

In a situation like this, we think you’re wise to trust your “mother’s intuition.” This young man sounds like a decent guy, and it appears that his relationship with your daughter is purely platonic – at least for the time being. But feelings can change, and it’s entirely possible that your daughter could become romantically attracted to him over time. It’s also possible that he is already attracted to her but simply hasn’t acknowledged it.

It’s also fair to ask the question: at 25, why is he spending so much time with a 16-year-old instead of with women his own age? He may be a godly man, but he could also be somewhat insecure relationally and more comfortable relating to teenagers than adults his own age.

We’d suggest that you and your husband sit down with this young man and have a frank, open discussion about the situation. Let him know how much you respect him. Tell him that you sincerely appreciate the positive influence he’s had on your daughter. Make it clear that you have no reason to suppose that their relationship is anything more than a friendship. But having said this, go on to explain that, given their age difference, you feel it’s important to raise a “caution flag.” Ask him to consider prayerfully whether or not he might be physically attracted to your daughter or developing romantic feelings for her. If he acknowledges that he does have such feelings, suggest that it might be better to limit the one-on-one time they spend together. In our view, this would probably be an appropriate course of action regardless of how he responds.

If he becomes angry or defensive about your concerns, that’s a “red flag.” At that point you’ll need to decide if you want to continue to allow your daughter to spend time with him at all. You may even want to discuss the issue with the appropriate person in leadership at your church.

It’s also important to have another, more detailed discussion with your daughter about this relationship. Explain that although she may not have romantic feelings for this young man right now, it’s always possible that those feelings could develop down the road. After all, she’s growing into a young woman, and God designed young men and young women to be attracted to each other – even if there is a nine-year age difference between them.

Make sure she understands that you don’t doubt her when she says that she feels nothing but friendship for this young man. But because she doesn’t have any dating experience, encourage her to “guard her heart.” Offer your support and let her know that she can confide in you if she becomes confused about her emotions.

One more thing: let both of them know that if she were 23 and he were 32, you would take a very different view of the situation. The age difference would still be a factor, but at 23 your daughter would have more life-experience, wisdom, and emotional maturity under her belt. At that stage, she’d be in a much better position to decide if she wants to enter into a relationship with a man nine years her senior.

If you’d like to discuss your concerns at greater length with a member of our staff, feel free to call Focus on the Family’s Counseling department. They’d be pleased to assist you in any way they can.


If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

The Truth About Guys

The DNA of Parent-Teen Relationships

Love, Sex, and God: For Young Women Ages 14 and Up

Helping Your Daughter Become a Confident Woman part 1 and part 2

Navigating a Toxic Culture with Your Daughter part 1 and part 2

What a Difference a Daddy Makes: The Indelible Imprint a Dad Leaves on His Daughter’s Life

Parenting Podcast – Daughters

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