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where should the boundaries be???


cecily

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I'm a 30-year-old female and about a year ago I made friends online with a girl through a common cultural interest. We instantly hit it off and have got closer ever since. She is 16-years-old. Now we talk every day and seem to have a lot to discuss. Recently I felt the urge to reveal to her some of the mistakes I made in my past, I feel protective of her and somehow it felt like the right time, also I wanted to be honest and open with her. I instantly regretted it though, thinking I might be a bad influence or talking about inappropriate things. She didnt seem to think it was a mistake and seemed comfortable about it. But I'm confused now about boundaries - what is it okay to talk to her about? I want her to feel it's ok to talk to me about anything - IF she ever needs to talk to someone, because I remember what it was like having nobody to talk to at that age. That's partly too why I have been open. So that she knows I understand. But now I think I may be inappropriate, she is so young and I feel it's my duty to be responsible for boundaries here. But at the same time I don't want to insult her by treating her differently because of her age. I would NEVER hurt her and I think we will be lasting friends. I'm just very confused at this point in the friendship and although we have had an honest discussion about what boundaries are... I need an adult opinion. Thank you for reading

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I'm not sure on the dynamics of your relationship with her - whether you are more of a 'mentor' or more of a 'friend'. If you're a mentor, then the boundaries are set first by what she is comfortable to query about, and then what you are comfortable to answer about. If you are friends, then you have to respect her ability to self-govern, and you both come to an agreement mutually.

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Hi Lecturer, thanks for your post, it really got me thinking! I would much rather be her friend than her mentor, and I purposely ask her for her opinions etc, like I would with any other friend, to avoid being placed into any role. I encourage her to disagree with me and be aware of her own thoughts on any topic. I don't want to be an influence, I just want to be her friend.

But because of our ages and we talk so much, I know I probably am an influence. That's why I feel I must be careful. So we have come to an agreement that we will only share what we are comfortable about sharing. But still, something is niggling me to back off and not be open after all. Certain subjects like alcohol, drugs and sex which I would talk more openly about with adult friends... I guess I should shut up about things like that, let her talk in her own time and just trust that she will if she wants to. I don't know what is best - treat her like any other of my closest friends so that we talk openly, or be always conscious of her age and keep a respectful distance??? Thanks

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On one hand, she is still a minor, so you should take that into account on the level of detail of some topics. On the other hand, I was just as much an adult at 16 as I am now at 27.. and I appreciated being treated as such.. maturity is often a better gauge than age in my opinion. If you feel she has the maturity and ability to hear details and fully understand the way an adult would, then you probably don't need to be concerned.

 

Keep in mind that limiting how open you are with her will limit the depth of the friendship you two can have.

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The only way to truly become friends is to be open and honest. That means no pulled punches, no veiled topics, no hidden meanings.

 

Regardless of age, if you want to truly be friends, just talk and don't worry about "boundaries" and "what's appropriate for a 16 year old" conversationally. I didn't turn 18 or 21 and suddenly become more mature or gain a deeper understanding of the world. If you think she's mature enough to be your friend then go for it.

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