Over the 20 + years I have been mediating conflicts I have found my most difficult work has been when working with 13 and 14 year old girls.

The level of their conflict has been deeply rooted due to many of the girls sharing a lot of friendship and memories prior to the conflict. Typically during that grade 8 or 9 stage also deals with rapid social, emotional and physical development. Some girls obviously will develop quicker and will gravitate towards the excitement of being with older boys and their friends may feel threatened by this. If someone is in this situation it is important to understand two main points.

First it is important that parents understand the Age of Consent. A helpful link includes http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/other-autre/clp/faq.html  In this document it states,:”The age of consent for sexual activity is 16 years. It was raised from 14 years on May 1, 2008 by the Tackling Violent Crime Act.which states that there is a “Close In Age Expception;   a 12 or 13 year old can consent to sexual activity with another young person who is less than two years older and with whom there is no relationship of trust, authority or dependency or other exploitation of the young person.” Also if your daughter is 14 or 15 then: “she can consent to sexual activity with a partner as long as the partner is less than five years older and there is no relationship of trust, authority or dependency or any other exploitation of the young person.” Many, including the older partner may not be aware of this law, so one thing you could do as the parent is make those around your daughter (and your daughter) be aware that the older person could be breaking the law and their relationship could turn into a police matter.

The second point is that the girls who may feel threatened by their friend dating and older person may start making damaging comments such as referring to them as a ‘slutt’ etc. We are in the internet, information age so comments like this can be put on various social media and spread around like rapid fire. To the parents I would encourage you to continue communicating with your daughter, educate her on how comments and photos put on the internet can be very damaging . Communicate with the parents of the other children and encourage them to tell their children to not make the damaging comments or better yet, check in why they are making these comments in the first place. There is always opportunity to repair the harms and rebuild your community.

If you have any comments or questions I always will encourage you to contact myself at Shawn McNabb Counselling in Surrey, B.C. at 778-773-2465.