The Friend's Parents
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My 14-year old daughter's school friend (also 14) has a serious drinking problem. As my
daughter tells it, he and his 12-year-old brother both walk home from middle school, at
which point the older child raids the family liquor cabinet. He drunk-dialed my daughter
at 10 pm last night.
This kid is apparently from a wealthy family (fancy house in a great neighborhood) with
two parents who work long hours at professional jobs. They'll be away on a cruise much of
the summer. I told my daughter that after school starts, this kid must go to the school
counselor at his new high school and get help. If he does not do this within three weeks,
I will write a letter to the mom and call her on the phone as well (I set a specific date
Is this the right approach ? I'm very angry that parents would ignore the obvious signs of
trouble, and that well-off people would provide so little care for kids when they could
could hire a tutor/ babysitter. Should I call the parents before they leave on the cruise-
which is what I want to do ?
I think you absolutely should tell the parents before they go on this cruise. We're not
talking about 18-year-olds with drinking issues, which would be bad enough--this is really
young, and this is really serious. Not only does this signal very scary addiction issues, but
these kids could kill themselves by drinking too much in one sitting. It's not like they're
old enough to have a lot of common sense. This is an immediate danger and I would call them
do it now, I support you!
I think you should definitely tell the parents, and sooner rather than later. Approach them
in a sympathetic, non confrontational way, as though they might have no idea about what's
going on. Try not to judge them as parents (whether or not you believe they're being
neglectful) because you don't want them to be defensive. You just want the best for their
son. Tell them what you know, that you thought they would want to know, tell them in person
if you can (if you know them well enough) so they can see from your facial expressions that
you mean well. I think this news can be hard to hear, and it will feel better if they feel
like you're on their side rather than judging them. We have no way to know what goes on
inside of a family, but you are very kind to be concerned about this kid.
definitely reach out
Ask yourself one simple question: If that was my kid, would I want to know?
--Of course you should tell
I'm hoping I can get some good insight here. My kids have a friend who has a
mom we really dislike. You wouldn't think this would be too much of a problem,
but she is always asking to have my kids over and trying to invite us over for
brunch, dinner, etc.. I really don't know how to deal with this. At least one
of my kids really doesn't want to go over to their house at all, and frankly
neither do I. On top of this she phones me all the time and keeps me on the
line. I have told her emailing is better for me, and when that didn't work I
started replying to her messages via text, but she keeps calling. I really
don't know what to do short of saying, ''Look we really like your kid, but
would prefer to not have any unnecessary contact with you'', and it seems like
avoiding the calls and invites isn't getting through. I really don't like
lying, and I don't want to hurt her feelings either, so I end up being
friendly and polite but that is getting me nowhere. Please help!
I liked a mom at my daughter's school and I kept trying to get to know her better - I called,
emailed, invited her family to dinner. Each time she demurred and eventually I got the
message. I was not as insistent as the mom of your kid's friend, but the other mom kept saying
no, which is what you must do. However, it would be better if you made it into a blanket
refusal, e.g., ''we really don't have time to socialize with the families of our son's
friends.'' Or, ''we're really busy and we only have time to see family and very close friends.
Thanks so much for asking.'' She will get the message.
Start using your message machine to screen your phone calls.
Your son should decide for himself if he can put up with occasional visits to his friend's
house or not.
I am an excessively polite person, and I would never, ever be direct with
a person like this for fear of hurting her feelings. But I would draw some
boundaries. Here's my advice:
Don't answer the phone when she calls and don't return her calls.
Decline invitations with a simple "I'm so sorry, we're busy." or
"So sorry but we can't make it." If you do that every time,
get the message eventually.
Two steps will be useful to deal with her initially. First, don't answer the phone when she
calls and let it go to voicemail. Second, give her a reason why telephoning you is not good but
e-mail works better.
You just have to stick with not answering the phone when she calls. Instead, call her back in
late evening (or e-mail her back instead). Do this a few times. Then if she continues to
call, tell her that you are busy during the day or early evening and phone calls interrupt what
you are doing and cause you to lose track. Because of this you are no longer taking calls at
that time. However, when you want to take a break, you will check your e-mail, so that is a
more effective way to communicate with you.
If possible, come up with a reason for your being so busy--new responsibilities at work,
decided to reorganize your house, decided to improve meals at your house and are now cooking
everything from scratch, trying a new diet which requires you to eat at home, etc. Something
(or things) that sound plausible. Then stick with this/these reasons when she invites you
over, wants to talk, etc. Just be straightforward about it--don't apologize, just say you
don't have the time to talk/go over, etc. If you can be consistent about this approach, she
will begin to get the idea. And if you can come up with a plausible diet-related issue, that
is another reason why you won't be able to eat at her house.
Also, start planning other activities with your kids (TV night at home) so that your family is
almost always busy when she suggests you come over. If necessary, you could tell her that you
are making family-at-home time a priority because you felt your family was not together enough.
Frankly, your post hit a nerve with me (and I'm sure others will reply similarly as well). You
didn't say why you don't like her, but it seems like she's trying to at least make an effort to
get to know you since your kids are friends with each other. If you find her so unbearable on
the phone, then tell her kindly that ''you have to get to an appt. and will talk later''. If
you don't want to do play dates with her children then tell her that you've had a very full
schedule lately...then same, the following times. It's really not that hard to get out of play
You may want to take a second notice at your own behavior and dismissal of this woman. It's
hardly rude to have to be kind enough to ask someone over for brunch/dinner, want to
connect--sounds like a nice gesture that I would personally welcome. Hard to imagine someone
being so distasteful that you must avoid them at all costs...and then allow your kids to
observe your irritation about it also.
I realized after I posted my message that I forgot to explain why I dislike her. It
actually took me a long time to put my finger on it because she is actually very nice and
friendly. The conclusion I have come to is that she has very poor boundaries, in my
opinion, and is quite officious. I could give examples, but in the interest of anonymity,
I will not.
Here's an interesting dilemma: My 12 year old daughter has a best
friend who attends a different school than she does. This friend has
told my daughter that a boy asked her to be his girlfriend, and she
said yes. The problem is that her mother (and my good friend) has
told her daughter that she cannot date and cannot have boyfriends at
this time. So, the daughter has not told her mother about this at
all, and her mom has no idea (and thus, cannot offer any sort of
guidance or support). But *I* know, and my dilemma is, what to do? I
am sure this 12-year-old dating thing is benign (I have known this kid
her whole life, and am sure it is not a serious thing at this point in
time), but it puts me in an awkward situation. Do I keep the secret,
knowing my friend's daughter is dating a boy and lying about it, or do
I tell the mother (and thus betray my own daughter's confidence in
telling me about it)? And while we're at it, what about the same
situation if it were not a boyfriend, but trying weed or drinking? At
what point do we betray our own children's confidence in sharing
information with us in order to protect their friends from harm's way?
What is the tipping point?
Glad my daughters talk to me!
Don't tell. At this age, ''dating'' someone basically means texting
them constantly. And maybe putting yourself as ''married'' on your
Facebook status. It is very benign, and it probably doesn't even mean
what your friend thinks it means when she forbids ''dating'' someone.
I really, really counsel strongly against interfering here.
I understand your concerns about the ''gray area'' (do I tell if I
find out she's smoking weed) but really, deal with that problem if and
when it happens. This is very different. Leave it alone, other than to
tell your daughter you think it's unfortunate her friend can't share
this with her parents.
Mom of 13 year old ''dater''
I've recently faced a similar issue because my daughter also is good
at confiding in me, and I don't want to break that trust. I've
decided that I would ''tell'' if the situation placed the other child
in any potential danger. A lot of the ''dating'' at that age is a
non-issue. My daughter (at around the same age) recently briefly had
a ''boyfriend'' but never even got together with him during that time.
(LOL) It was very innocuous. In my situation, I know that nothing
troubling would happen between the specific girl and boy, that the
''dating'' was more about talking and texting (not ''sexting''), and I
decided not to tell. (If there had been any suggestion about possible
sex or anything else dangerous, I would have gotten the mother
That being said, drugs or alcohol is a totally different issue. Even
if it is ''only'' marijuana, the confidence will be broken. My
daughter knows this, but I think would only tell me because she would
want my interference; she is quite outspoken about her objection to
drugs and alcohol.
You need to make a personal decision about this. In my situation the
mother was a friend, but not a close friend, of mine, and I decided
keeping the confidence was more important given the circumstances.
I appreciate your concern, but this is very simple. Let's look at this
from another perspective: if *your* daughter were doing something she
wasn't supposed to do, and your good friend knew about it and didn't
tell you, how would you respond? Personally, I would be very angry at
my friend, and I would feel betrayed.
As to how you can talk to your daughter, I think now is the time to
say that certain secrets cannot *ethically* be kept from parents for
the child's own good. Would you keep a secret of anorexia? Cutting?
Drinking? Again, would you want your friends to keep your child's
problems from you?
Easier said than done, I know, but I think its important.
Not into secrets
Myob. She may be going against her mothers orders but there is no
immediate safety issue. This is NOT your business.
The first question is to ask yourself, if your daughter had a
boyfriend, was drinking or using drugs, would you want to know. When I
was a teen I was experimenting with marijuana. A boy at school who
wasn't a close friend told his mom who told my mom and the headmaster.
At the time I thought it was intrusive (what business was it of his?)
but in retrospect, it got me to stop using, so it was a positive
Last year my son had a girlfriend and didn't tell me until they were
almost ready to break up. I felt like I had really missed the
experience of talking with him about his first romantic relationship.
I vote on mentioning it to her mom in a non judgemental way. Maybe you
could say, ''I heard from Katie that Sonia has a boyfriend...please
don't tell her that you heard it from me. I don't want Katie to feel I
''told.'' But, I thought you would want to know.''
There are times when it's important to alert your child's friend's
parents about what the friend is doing. This is not one of those
Your daughter reported to you that her 12-year-old friend has a
boyfriend, which is not allowed by her mother. At age 12, being in a
boyfriend-girlfriend relationship doesn't necessarily mean much: most
likely, they just ''like like'' each other and want to put a label on
those feelings. If the girl were sneaking out at night to meet the
boy or otherwise endangering herself, then you might want to tell the
mom, but why tell her this?
If you want to maintain an open and communicative relationship with
your daughter, you need to think very carefully before using the
information that she tells you in confidence. If she learns that you
went to the mom with this information, she will likely stop confiding
in you, and that would be a shame.
You want your daughter to talk to you so you need to keep things
confidential unless something is truly life-threatening. What is
life-threatening? Drinking to the point vomiting or passing out
(alcohol poisoning), reckless sex, heavy drug use, sneaking out at
night. If you follow this rule your daughter will understand if you
ever have to break her confidence. But, if you break confidence for
this, I doubt she will tell you much in the future - and there will be
a LOT you might like to know. If your daughter is ever concerned about
a friend you can help her to decide whether to go to the friend's
parent---and if she is worried she might want to do that. In that case
you could support disclosure and there may be times you could get her
permission before talking to a parent. Just don't do it without
permission. You might be surprised but it wouldn't necessarily lead to
a good outcome for anyone. I have to interact with kids and keep their
confidence unless the situation is truly dangerous and I think it
works best to use this guide.
Typically if my sons tell me something in confidence I use it as a point of
conversation with them and let them work it out. Do they feel safe. Do they think
their friend is safe. What does it mean to be boyfriend and girl friend. Is it good
to lie to your parents. Their answers let me know if intervention is necessary.
Perhaps, depending on the circumstances, they can encourage their friend to talk to
the other parent. As others have said - if there is no danger I won't tell the other
I would appreciate opinions. My 14 year old freshman son has
started to develop an independant social circle. The other
kids (boys and girls) ,I think ,are ''good'' kids but I
haven't met them . They have been going to one of the homes
(not mine yet) to watch movies. The rule is that my son is
not to be at friends homes if the parent is not there. So
far its been a trust thing because he is uncomfortable with
me calling the home to chat up the parent (and he gets home
on time, etc). So, does this sound appropriate or do I
insist on calling. Opinions?
one of ''those'' moms
Your instinct to check in with the other parent(s) is
absolutely correct. As the ''anti-drug'' and ''stay-in-
school'' campaigns assert, affirmative parental involvement
is the best way to ensure good outcomes for our teens.
(Like many, I'm put off by the occasional tackiness of
these campaigns, but on this point they're right on the
As always, have a talk with him to hear his concerns and
explain why you think checking in with the parent is
important. Strive to come across as ''authoritative'' rather
than ''authoritarian.'' Explain that there are larger issues
than whether or not you trust him to do the right thing.
You need to know that the other parent(s) actually intend
to be present while the kids are there (e.g., do they think
it's ok to leave to go shopping, and if so is that ok with
you?). Moreover, you don't know them and it seems like a
parental duty not only to confirm that you're on the same
page but more generally to satisfy yourself that they're
safe and trustworty guardians for your son. That would be
worth a call in itself even without the issue of
your ''parent-present'' rule.
If you are home at times when the kids like to hang out,
you might want to tell your son you'd like his friends to
feel comfortable coming over to your house as well, and
encourage him to invite them. (And follow-up to make it
happen if you can.) Meanwhile call the parent(s) at the
other home to let them know what you're doing and encourage
their son/daughter to come over; this provides a natural
opportunity to check in with the other parent about the
situation when kids are there, e.g. ''I'm inviting the gang
to come over here as well as to your house. I plan to be
home when the kids are here...Is that the way you've been
handling it too?'')
Bottom line: Reagan's old phrase on arms control: ''Trust.
Trust but verify!''
I'd tell him the truth -- that you trust him, but its unreasonable to
expect you to trust people you've never met or even spoken to.
Then I'd give him the choice of inviting the kids to HIS house once
or twice, so you can get to know them -- or expect you to call and
confirm that a parent is home, until you know which parents you
One of the plusses of this method is that he can pretend you're
being unreasonable if he wants, and other kids will understand...
the roll of the eyes... the ''its my mother....''.
If you do speak to the other parents you may be pleasantly
surprised to find that they also would like to be in the loop, and that
each of them also has a kid who says ''no one else does that.''
BTW - if you want kids at your house, invest in food. Good snacks
more than balance any amount of parental supervision at this age.
Although your son sounds reasonably responsible, I'd opt for
making that call! My son also was embarrassed, or so he
said, about my calling other boys parents. While in calling
the parents, I usually found that my son was honest about
who was home, etc. I was also able to make contact with
these parents, who over the long-term,were valuable contacts
in regard to what my son/their son(s) were up to, what their
parenting policies were, etc. You might want to know what
kind of parents they are -- some kids I have known are
allowed access to the liquor cabinet, for example --
something I'm not comfortable with AT ALL. Your son is not
the only embarrassed kid on the block, and you're not just
''one of those moms,'' you are one of the few who are taking
an active interest in their children's upbringing. He'll get
over the embarrassment, even if he doesn't think so!
I think it is sad how parents lose touch with the parents
of their kids friends when their kids get to be teenagers.
I think we can be better parents if know the other parents
and consult with them. If you are on a friendly basis, then
it will be easier to talk when something serious comes up.
I recommend calling. The other parents probably want to be
in touch with you too, but are feeling reluctant for
similar reasons. Don't let your teenager control who you
call on the phone.
Yes, call. You don't need to say you are checking up -
just say you are wondering what rules they have for their
kid, trying to figure out where to draw the line, what do
they do in this particular situation, etc. We parents have
to stick together! I am a shy person and it was hard for
me to call people I didn't know, especially once the kids
were 15, 16, 17. Sometimes I felt like I was the most
paranoid fearful person on earth. Sometimes I wanted to call
but didn't. But now that mine are 19 and 22 I can see in
retrospect that checking in with their friends' parents was
the single best thing I did during that period. I learned so
much from other parents. Just staying in touch by phone,
getting a reality check with other parents now and then, and
most improtantly laying the groundwork so that I felt OK
about calling the very few times when they didn't come home,
or there was some alcohol/drug episode, etc. One parent asked
me if she could call me late at night just in case she didn't
know where her son was, and that emboldened me to do the
same. We only did it once, but it felt good to know that I
was supported in my worry and had someone I could call instead
of just biting my fingernails at home alone. The kids
complained about being "spied" on, but really, we were able to
give them more independence because we felt there was a
network of parents looking out for them. And ultimately,
I think the kids eventually really did appreciate that we
were just trying to protect them from harm, not spoil
To ''one of those moms''...keep up the good work and keep
checking in with the parents of your teen's friends. It is
a drag and somewhat akward to call parents you don't know
but it is necessary. I tell my kids that I do trust them
AND I want the opportunity to get to know the parents of
Insist on calling. It's the only way to be absolutely sure
about what's going on. You must be ''on the same page'' with
other parents. I had two girls come over once and then
around 8:30 p.m. they were leaving and I asked why. They
said one of the girls' father was picking them up at the
corner. I said OK. The next morning BOTH fathers called my
house looking for their daughters. They had told their
respective fathers they were spending the night at our
house! So, they were out all night, no one knows where,
doing what, or with whom. My daughter was left out of the
loop of at least going with them. These girls were around
16 yrs old. So I made a pact with these dads and other
parents to ALWAYS talk to each other when our children were
making plans together. It freaks me out to think what
could've happened that night. Unfortunately, one of the
dads blamed me, but he was an unreasonable hothead in
denial. Anyway, I vote for talking with other parents even
if my child may experience some embarrassment.
I need to know how to talk to the parents of my son's friends when
there is a problem. I know their names, but I don't know them. I am
kind of a shy person, and I need to know what to say, and how to say
it - I mainly just want to let them know about the problem.
My son, nearly 17, seems to be experimenting with alcohol. On a rare
trip into his room to fetch dirty laundry, I found an empty bottle of
tequila that he took from the pantry months ago that I never missed.
I asked about it, and he told me reluctantly that he and his friend
had been drinking it over several weekends when the friend slept over.
I had a long conversation with my son, and I feel OK about the outcome,
but I feel that I should call the friend's parents and let them know
about this. But I am really uncomfortable bringing it up, and I don't
have any idea how to phrase it. I like their kid, and I don't want it
to seem like I am blaming them - really I feel responsible for leaving
liquor lying around. If it were the other way around, I would want
the parents to let me know. So, does anyone have suggestions about how
to word this? - Anonymous mom
In response to the parent who is shy about calling her son's friend's
parents...I support you in making the call. It's very important that our
teens know that their parents care about them, and that parents talk to each
other.As you know partents have different values, and you have to be
prepared for a response that may not fit with your concerns.But chances are
the parent will be very happy that you called.
When my oldest son was in BHS I was more "hands off" but I see now that it
was a mistake. I would certainly want a call so I too could have a
conversation with my son about his drinking.Many of our kids are
experimenting with substances, and some of them are doing more and are in
trouble. It's important to know the difference.
Here's what I say, " Hi I'm so and so's mother and I understand our teens
are friends.I have some information about some drinking they've been doing
if you're interested in talking with me. You may then have to tell her not
to reveal the source, depending on what you and your son have agreed on.
Once she here's your concerns she can find a way to talk with her son, even
if she doesn't use the specifics. I really have appreciated it when parents
have kept me informed. As parents we all have our blind sponts, and of
course we make many mistakes. If we would help each other more, our job
would be a little easier. If the parent you call doesn't want to talk with
you, then you had better keep a good eye out when your son hangs out with
Good-luck and thanks for bringing up such an important issues.
What I did in a similar kind of situation was tell the friends that I was
going to speak with their parents, but would give them 48 hours to do so
first. It worked pretty much to my satisfaction.
Re: Calling friend's parents: First, we had the same experience with
alcohol. Naively our cupboard was the wellspring for a good bit of drinking.
Being low consumers of alcohol, the whisky kept for a once a year hot toddy
or the vodka I use to soak a Christmas cake were gradually drained and
replaced by colored water. Sadly, other parents often think it's your child
who is corrupting theirs- in other words, everyone looks for who is the bad
influence when the truth is they're all volitional most of the time. (It's
hard to face our children's own desire to be wild or defiant or use drugs and
alcohol.) My child told me that the 12 year old sister of his good friend
(15) drank heavily. She was skating on the parent's fantasy that my child
went over there and drank their beers. (Which he probably did from time to
time.) How to tell them- Straight on. "I have some information I think
might be helpful to you and you child. You may not like what I'm about to
tell you but from the best of my knowledge I believe it's true and I would
want to know from you if you knew anything you think I should know. I
believe we have to support the kids by sticking together as parents." Then
they'll have to do what they do.
And you have to decide what to do on your end. We decided to take matters
into our own hands (even if only symbolically) and tell the kids that came
here that the were not to touch any alcohol in this house. We kept an eye on
how many beers were in the refrigerator and confronted my child if the
numbers changed. (WHich they now and again seemed to do.) THe kids at least
knew we were watching. Some people get rid of all the alcohol in their home.
At times we just didn't have anything here. GOod luck. Be glad your kid
told you.- WR
I realize (in hindsight of course) that talking directly to my child and my
child's friend in an open, friendly atmosphere can alleviate certain
problems. In high school, especially by the time your child is a junior,
teenagers become very independent-thinking, and need to be talked to as
reasonable adults. For example, invite your child's friend over for
dinner, have a friendly open discussion about how you feel about teenagers
drinking in your house, and bring up the ground rules, asking them to
respect those ground rules. Don't lecture, but be friendly, and ask them
what they think about many things, drinking in general, etc. Teenagers
feel they don't need lectures from parents and they certainly don't want
their parents calling their friends' parents with tales. However, alcohol
consumption is serious, heavy and very prevalent at BHS (also at every
other high school in the bay area, so we're not a special problem in that
way). But close monitoring is necessary, and if it's truly serious, yes,
you may have to call other parents to discuss the situation. I've talked
with parents to gauge how they feel about their kids drinking, if they stay
around on weekends when their kids have friends over, etc., and in this way
try to get to know the parents better. I am not shy talking to other
parents about my child or theirs for we share a very common bond, as
parents of teenagers, and it's okay to ask for a parent's phone number,
believe me, most parents understand the need, and you must get over shyness
if your first concern is your child's ultimate safety and the safety of all
his friends. It's important you network with other parents on those
occasions when trouble occurs (your child may have a friend's personal
phone number, not a parent's, so talking personally to a parent and getting
their phone number is helpful). I think you should be up front with your
son about calling a friend's parent when there's a problem so he can feel
responsibility for your actions--if he continues to drink with his friend
in your home, you will call the parent and let them know what's going on.
If he knows your actions, his reaction won't be as awful should he find out
you called without telling him, or forewarning him. So, my point here is
to continue to communicate with your son directly about his responsibility
and his interactions with his friends. I hope this is helpful to you.
response to "anonymous" who was worried about how to approach the parents
of the probably drinking buddy: You phrased it beautifully yourself. Take
the last part of what you wrote here--the bit about feeling awkward and
concerned, and say that first. Then say what you wrote first. You come
across as caring, worried about being intrusive, and clear. Go for it.
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