When Teens Date Adults: Do You Know the Age of Consent in Your State?

teens date adultsMinor teen issues are one thing. However, there are certain circumstances when we parents feel we must intervene. If your teen has begun dating a much-older person, you have a legitimate reason to be concerned. It’s likely that they’re being taken advantage of, but if your teen is in love, they probably won’t see it.

Why Teenagers Choose Older Partners

It’s not difficult to understand why a younger person would want to date an older, established adult. A person in their twenties or thirties is likely to have a job and therefore much more spending money than a teen. He or she may buy the teen gifts or take them places they want to go. The adult likely seems “cool” to the teen, and they may even look up to this person as a role model.

The bigger question is why adults choose to date teens. There isn’t an easy answer, and every situation is different. However, for the most part, adults who choose to date teenagers are not healthy people. It’s usually done because the adult either has a specific attraction to very young people, which is bad for obvious reasons. It’s even more common for the adult to view the teen as young, stupid and easy to manipulate. This makes it simple for the adult to get away with a lot of inappropriate behavior during the relationship. Often, these situations become abusive over time.

Know State Laws and How They Can Affect Teen Issues

If you’ve just found out your teen is dating an older person, try not to panic. Hunting the guy down and attacking him isn’t going to do you or your child any good. Instead, take a minute to breathe and figure out exactly what’s going on. A 21-year-old dating an 18-year-old is likely not the end of the world. A 31-year-old dating a 16-year-old is reason for alarm. Once you determine the nature of the situation, your next step is to decide whether you want to call the police. Involving the police in teen issues doesn’t always pay off.

Before you call, be sure to read about the laws in your state, because the situation might not even be illegal. For example, in Colorado, it’s perfectly legal for a 16-year-old to date an adult. It might not be healthy, but it’s nothing you can take legal action over.

If you determine the situation is allowed within the boundaries of the law, your next option is to sit down and have a discussion with your teen. Try not to get angry or demonize the boyfriend or girlfriend right off the bat. Doing so will only put distance between you and your child. Instead, let your child talk about the relationship. Listening to their honest feelings should give you an idea of how healthy or unhealthy it is. Encourage your child to use protection to avoid a pregnancy or STD.

If you find yourself in a situation where your hands are tied, your best bet is to continue to support your teen and be ready to help when the relationship ends, which it very likely will

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Debra Beck

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