There are times when we learn something about an adolescent that makes us think, “His parent needs to know that.”
WARNING! Before you pick up the phone to call another parent, take a moment or, better yet, sleep on it. Consider whether that teenager’s parents really need to know. Are you just dealing with gossip? Will it help or hurt to call another parent? We’ve got guidelines to help.
To Call or Not to Call Another Parent
Pick your scenario:
1. Their kid was mean to your kid
Why you should not call: Chances are, you will not help your teenager by telling another parent that their child is a jerk, regardless of the gentle words in which you couch the criticism. Instead, focus on your own teenager. Be sympathetic and explore ways your teen can handle the situation on his own (like hanging out with different friends). Your teen is being bullied? This is different, though you should call the school (and not the bully’s parents).
2. Their kid did not invite your kid
Why you should not call: Again, calling another parent to complain that your teen wasn’t invited or, worse, to ask for an invitation, won’t help. And it might even hurt when the news gets around school the next day. Instead, help your teen develop the resilience to handle this unfortunate, but not uncommon situation. “Ugh, I’m sure that feels awful. What about going to the movie with another friend?”
3. You know something juicy
Why you should not call: Over the next few years, you will likely learn many things about your teenager’s peers that you might think another parent would want to know. But as juicy as your information is, ask yourself: Is that teenager in any immediate danger? If your answer is “No,” then don’t call.
4. You know something dangerous
Why you should call: If you know for a fact —hearing it third-hand does not count—that another teenager is behaving destructively (or being victimized), consider how you can get the information to the parent. Examples of such situations include substance abuse, self-harm, relationship violence. You can approach the parent yourself in a non-judgmental, get-to-the-point way. “Here’s what I know. I will not share this information with anyone else. And we do not need to talk about it again.” Or instead of deciding to call another parent, you can find a third-party; a school counselor can be an excellent option for helping with teenage behavior problems and risky behavior.
5. The other parent is your friend
Why you should wait to call: While other parents—even your best friend!—may say they want to know, the fact is you may be risking a friendship when you pick up the phone to tell on their teenager. Again, if it’s something dangerous, we say make the call. But other stuff? Well, only you can answer the question of what kind of information is worth that risk.