It Is None of My Business What Other Teenagers Do, Or Is It?
I’d love to get your opinion on this; my 14 year old daughter is a freshman in high school. This year, sadly, some of her friends that she has known since elementary have started partying – drinking and getting high as well as engaging in sexual behavior with slightly older boys etc. Yep pretty bad stuff. My daughter does not participate with this group of girls any more but they are all still friendly enough that she hears about their activities from them while they are together at school. She has told me some of it. I am horrified and feel that I would want another parent to talk to me about this if they knew my daughter was involved and suspected that I might not know. Should I approach the parents? I am acquainted in a distant but friendly way with three of the mothers but I am not close enough to them nor do I see them often enough that I could bring it up in any kind of casual way. Is it my responsibility to alert the parents? There is one mother whom I know is aware and has basically given up trying to control her daughter. I don’t know if the other parents have also just given up.
Or maybe this is really none of my business? Full disclosure, I am hoping for a this is none of your business opinion from you. Among other things I am somewhat worried about what would happen to my daughter if it got out that she told me and then I told the parents.
Oh, I know exactly how you feel. I have been in similar situations, though not with actions that potentially have such dire consequences. I have also had a parent approach me and tell me about an incident when my son was acting like a wild fool at a school event. I firmly believe that it takes a village to raise our kids, but I know that not everyone is receptive: “I have experienced it many times myself, even with good friends. For all our talk about needing a village to raise our children, many people get very upset when told about what their children are doing or, heaven forbid, if their children are scolded by another adult.” (You can read the rest of that post here.)
I know you are hoping for a different answer, but I think you have an obligation to inform the parents. They could very well have no idea. Teens can be great at lying and you mention that one mother does know and has basically “given up” perhaps the other girls are telling their parents they are spending the night at her house, etc. You know how kids always want to sleepover the house of the kid with the latest curfew. What teen doesn’t want to be where there are no rules.
I think it is possible to take your daughter out of the equation. I would definitely not tell the other parents that you got the information from your daughter, to protect her from possible ramifications from the other girls, but also because if the other parents don’t take it well you don’t want there to be additional scrutiny on your daughter. I would also pick one mother who I thought would be the most receptive to tell and then she could chose to share it with her daughter’s friends’ parents.
There are ways to soften the blow of the message, because I have to imagine that hearing your daughter is drinking, doing drugs, and having sex with older boys will be a blow to ANY parent. I don’t have a problem telling little white lies about how I heard the message, as long as the message I deliver is the truth. For example, you can say that you overheard a group of girls talking with your daughter and your daughter doesn’t know that you are telling them because she doesn’t even know that you overheard. Or you can say another mother mentioned it to you because she knew that you were acquainted with the parents and she didn’t feel comfortable coming forward. Or you overheard random kids talking at a school event. Do you know if the girls have Facebook accounts and maybe are posting inappropriate things? That would give you another way to broach the subject. I would lean toward the second one, just because it seems the most realistic for my life.
I would soften the blow by saying, “I don’t know for sure if these things are occurring, but as a mother I am sure you would just want a heads up so that you can check it out for yourself.” None of us likes to hear about our children’s wrong doings because it makes us feel like bad parents, like we have somehow failed, even though all of us who have parented teenagers can attest that even those from the very best homes make very bad choices at times. Maybe more of us should acknowledge that–our kids are all going to make bad choices. End of story. What you chose to do when your child makes those bad choices is what separates good parenting from bad parenting.
I couldn’t in good conscience keep quiet about it because it made me feel uncomfortable to bring it up. The potential for something really bad to happen seems too great.
I hope you will check back in and let me know what happens. Good luck.
What do you think? Have you ever been in a situation like this one? How did you handle it?
If you have a question, please email Chris at this specific email address: adviceforparentsoftweens[at]gmail[dot]com. Please keep your questions on the issue of raising older kids.