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Daughter Is Getting Too Close to Youth Pastor

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My daughter is nearly 19, and she is very involved in church, singing, acting and other healthy activities. She has been through a lot, however, early in her life because her dad is alcoholic and living in another state and her older brother was taken away from us by their father when he was 11.

My concern is that the man who has been her youth director at church, is married and in his late 20's. He has been her youth pastor since she was a seventh grader, and now is her supervisor at her job in the child care at church. They have become very close, and he is becoming possessive of her, spending a great deal of time emailing and talking on the phone. She spends a night every week at his home. He is married, and my daughter is incensed at my discomfort over the seeming lack of boundaries and professional ethics. He believes she is not true to herself or completely honest with him.

A couple of months ago, the entire youth group was scheduled to go on a half-day hike; nobody showed up but my daughter, and the two of them went up to the mountains together anyway. I know I have cause for concern, not only for the potential for physical involvement and the consequences, but for her emotional vulnerability and attachment and dependence on him and his opinion of her.

How can I deal with this without causing a serious rift between my daughter and me? He has now had many years to get to know her, and is telling her that it will cause him pain if she goes away to college.

A: Trust your instincts on this one. I see red flags all over the place regarding this man's clearly inappropriate relationship with your daughter. His youth ministry has given him easy access to young women. He has abused this privilege by preying on their vulnerability and has purposely developed wholly inappropriate, intimate relationships with them. He never should have gone on a hike into the mountains alone with her - this was a group activity! I believe his "concern" for her lack of complete honesty with him is a thinly veiled coercive technique to develop even more inappropriate intimacy with her. He's even got her feeling guilty about causing him "pain" if she goes away to college - isn't that a sentiment usually uttered by boyfriends?

For many years, you have had uncomfortable feelings about this man and his relationships with your daughter and other girls. Again, I say to you, TRUST THOSE PROTECTIVE INSTINCTS! Get together with other parents who have had similar experiences regarding their daughters and this man. Once you ask around, you may discover more girls who have been caught in this man's web. I consider it not only your duty as your daughter's mother to report this man's actions to the church authorities, I consider it your responsibility as a parent concerned for other girls' safety. Once you have assembled all the possible background stories about this man's inappropriate relationships with girls in his "ministry," ask for a formal meeting with the church elders to present your case. I would hope that the evidence you will present, as a group of parents, will convince your church to take action against this man and to remove him from a position of contact with girls. You must be your daughter's champion and say, "NO MORE!" to this man's dangerous, manipulative abuse of girls. Let me know what happens.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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