Dear Your Teen:
Over the past few months, I have been hearing that my daughter’s friend has been making very poor choices. It started with sexting, drinking, and more recently, having sex. I am not sure what to do with this information. Do I contact the parents? I don’t know how they will receive this information and I am not confident that the conversation would not backfire on my daughter. Would you want someone to tell you if your daughter isn’t safe?
EXPERT | Amy Speidel, Parent Coach
If your daughter told this story to you, then the conversation should begin with her. And if your daughter shared this with you, she’s probably not sure what she should do and she is looking to you for guidance. Middle schoolers aren’t prepared to handle this.
Here are some suggestions about what I would say to my daughter if she came to me and shared this information about her friend.
“You’ve shared some things that are very concerning about your friend. I’m guessing that you’re concerned as well. There are some things that can remain between friends and some things that are important for adults to know. Do you believe her parents care about her? If yes, then they would want to know so that they could help her make better choices and be safe. Right now she’s not safe. This may be hard for you and for your friendship, but keeping this a secret could be dangerous for her. It is more important that she be safe.”
“I feel strongly that if this were you, I would want to know so that I could help you. I wanted you to know that I’m going to share some of what I know with her parents—just that it is possible that she may be getting into some things that could lead to an unsafe situation for her. No details, just a heads up. I realize this may mean that you won’t want to tell me things and that is a big risk for me. I hope you will still feel that you can confide in me and trust that I would not betray your confidence. However, when someone is in trouble, that takes precedence.”
At the same time, I would be very careful if the information is second-hand.
If you just “heard” it somewhere but not from your daughter (or your daughter heard it second hand), then you must decide how confident you feel that the information is accurate. A lot of damage can be done when rumors are dispensed as fact.
If you decide to talk with the parents or approach it mom-to-mom, here is one possibility for a difficult conversation.
“I’ve been struggling with whether I should talk with you about a situation involving your daughter. My decision to talk with you, as uncomfortable as this conversation might be, is because I’m a mom like you and I believe that moms need to support each other as our kids go through this challenging stage of growing up. It is possible that your daughter is making some choices that could end up being dangerous for her. I don’t know what is true or exaggerated, but it seems she may be in over her head with some boy relationships. Staying silent on this just seemed wrong since if something were to happen to her, that would be so much worse than risking either one of our embarrassments right now.”
I do believe that adults have an obligation to keep kids safe even if it is messy, unwelcome, or dismissed. Your brave decision to share might just redirect a potentially disastrous situation.