Look, I've been a mother of a teen and a willing ear to several friends and parents of teens who have found themselves in precarious situations. We have all learned something about one of our kid's friends or one of our friend's kids that we are not sure what to do with. We may have learned that our daughter's perfectly lovely friend is smoking marijuana several times per week, or that your son's best friend has confided (and not to his parents) that he is struggling with depression. These are among the trickiest of all situations, particularly if you have learned this information from your child. Here, you find yourself between a rock and a very hard place. On the one hand, you don't necessarily want to go directly to the child's parents and betray your child's confidence, but you don't necessarily want to ignore the information either.
What's a parent to do?
Listen to me carefully here, and please feel free to write to me and chime in. I've seen these types of situations go terribly awry and go extremely well. There are a number of pointers to keep in mind before choosing action or inaction.
1. Consider that your child may feel in over his or her head and may be confiding in you with the hope that you will intervene. If you sense that this is the case, call the child's parent and let him know what is going on.
2. Before calling a parent, ask yourself if you are coming from a place of good intention. Look at yourself in the proverbial mirror and ask yourself if you truly care or if you are simply sharing gossip.
3. If you do call a parent, let him/her know that you will keep this information between the two of you and that you have no intention of making this community information-gossip that is.
4. Before calling another teen's parent, let your child know. Your child may be a little upset, but at least she will not be blindsided.
5. You may want to ask the parent not to reveal the source of information to their child. Theinformation is more important than the source and may protect your relationship with your child.
6. If your teen is up to it, give her the opportunity to encourage the friend to talk to her parents herself. This is not the likeliest outcome, but it's worth a try.
7. Think about whether or not you would want this information shared if it was your child. If the answer is an unequivocal yes, then by all means pick up the phone.
8. If you believe that there is an abusive situation going on, you may want to call the school. School personnel are mandated reporters of abuse.
9. Know that you may lose some friends in this process, because we are all very sensitive about our kids, right? Better though to lose a friend then to kick yourself for holding on too tightly to information that would help the child by being shared.
10. Listen closely to your heart and gut and pray for the best. We are after all a community.