Inside: Can a 14 year old date a 17 year old? How to decide it is right or wrong.
Being a teenager is confusing, but being a PARENT of a teenager… is a whole other ballpark. Just when you think you are getting the hang of this whole parenting thing, hormones get involved.
There are so many new things to navigate; responsibilities, freedoms, and, worst of all, dating. Okay, it’s not that bad, but it is quite the minefield. When is a good time for my teen to start dating?
Should I control when and who they date?
There are so many questions that need answering, but today we will be focussing on one: Can a 14-year-old date a 17-year-old?
This question may seem obvious to some and confusing to others, so today, I will go over the legalities of the situation, as well as some other factors that should play into this kind of decision.
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Can a 14 year old date a 17 year old?
The short answer is, legally, yes. It is legal for a 14 year old to date a 17 year old, but this question is not as simple as a yes or no. There are many important things to consider before allowing this kind of age gap. This decision will vary based on situation to situation. Different parents are comfortable with different things, and that is okay.
It should also be said that while a relationship between an 14 year old and a 17 year old is legal, having sexual relations within the relationship is not. You cannot legally consent to sexual activity until you are 16 years of age.
Still, it is important to take a look at everything that plays into this kind of relationship. Below I have touched upon the most imperative ideas that you should take into consideration. Please read each with an open mind.
The Psychology of a 14 year old vs a 17 year old
Though a three-year gap may not seem like a big deal when you are older, it is much wider when you are a teen. Your teen years are some of your most malleable ones in terms of susceptibility to peer pressure and outside influences.
It is known that your brain does not fully develop until you are 25 years old. As you get closer to that age, your ability to make good decisions becomes better and better, but when you are a teen, you still aren’t the best at discerning what is best for you.
Decision-Making for Teens
According to aacap.org,
‘Pictures of the brain in action show that adolescents’ brains work differently than adults when they make decisions or solve problems. Their actions are guided more by the emotional and reactive amygdala and less by the thoughtful, logical frontal cortex. Research has also shown that exposure to drugs and alcohol during the teen years can change or delay these developments.’
With this idea in mind, it is safe to assume that a 14 year old and a 17 year old are in different places mentally in terms of decision-making. Though they are both susceptible to making decisions based on emotion rather than logic, the 17 year old has a few years of experience over the 14 year old.
This can lead to an imbalance of influence which leaves the 14 year old vulnerable. Now, I am not saying this is a fact for every single teen out there. Like I said before, this will widely differ based on the situation, so it will be up to you to discern where your teen is at.
What happens when they turn 18?
Here is where it get’s even more confusing. So your teen starts dating a 17 year old, but what happens after they turn 18? What changes in terms of legality?
For many states, the age of consent between minors is 16 years old, but it changes once they turn 18. Once you are 18, you cannot legally engage in any sexual act with a minor. This is because you cannot legally consent to an adult until you are an adult; it is as simple as that.
So Can a 14 year old date a 17 year old? Yes, but if these teens are expecting to be in a committed relationship for many years, they must be aware that they will not legally be allowed to consent until the younger party is a legal adult.
This is where communication comes in.
The Importance of Communication and Respect
Respect is not just something that children must give adults, it goes both ways. This is especially true as your child gets older. They are their own people who deserve the right to make decisions. At the same time, it is still your job as a parent to help guide them into safe decisions while giving them room to learn.
This can feel like a very confusing line to walk, and I will be the first to admit it isn’t easy. Similarly to when they were learning to walk, you have to let them fall and bonk their heads so they can learn. But when it comes to relationships as well as physical and mental safety, you have to do what is right.
The best way for you to be able to guide your teen is if you establish open communication. You want them to feel comfortable coming to you about things that they are facing. This way, you are involved with their life and can help them solve any problem they need help with.
Can a 14 year old date a 17 year old? How to Approach it.
This will vary based on you and your parenting style. If your teen wants to date a 17 year old, you will need to approach it gently; slamming your foot down can cause them to rebel and make decisions based on emotion rather than fact.
So talk to them about it. Bring up your worries and concerns and hear how they respond. Make sure they are aware of consent and the legality of the situation. And if they still want to go forward, make sure that you meet the 17 year old they want to date. Monitor their time together the same way you would if they were dating a 15 year old.
The most important thing is that your teen is safe, and only you can be the true judge of whether or not they are.
Can a 14 year old date a 17 year old? Conclusion.
I hope this answered your question and gave you some ideas to consider before allowing your teen to date a 17 year old. It can be a very confusing situation, so don’t expect to come up with a conclusion to it overnight.
Being a parent to a teen is a confusing new ballpark that you need to learn to navigate, but you are doing great. The three-year age gap won’t be as big of a deal once everyone is of age and fully matured, but for now, it is good that you are concerned about it. This way, you learn more about the best ways to handle situations that may arise in the future.
If you have any further parenting questions that need advice or answering, we have plenty of other ideas and topics for you to take a look at.