Q. My 18-year-old son, a high school senior, is dating a 15-year-old sophomore. This doesn't seem like a great idea to me, but I don't want to forbid it. Are there any ground rules I should set?
A. There are two reasons boys date younger girls. Some boys aren't as mature as their female peers and feel more comfortable with someone younger. Other guys want to exploit the fact that younger girls have a harder time holding their own. Your job is to make your son aware that his girlfriend may have trouble communicating her personal boundaries. Teach him to ask her questions and to listen to her responses, both verbal and nonverbal (because a girl may say something is "okay," while her tone indicates the opposite). If you're concerned that your son fits the second scenario, be very clear with him that he will have to answer to you if he takes advantage of this girl. And also remind him that in some states he could be legally prosecuted for sexual activity with her. (For specifics, go to sexlaws.org.)
Originally published in the June 2007 issue of Family Circle magazine.