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It Is None of My Business What Other Teenagers Do, Or Is It?

Apr27

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Hi Chris,

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.

About the author

Chris Jordan

http://notesfromthetrenches.com
Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she writes about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children.

Yes, they are all hers.

No she's not Catholic or Mormon. Though she wouldn’t mind having a sister-wife because holy hell the laundry never stops.

Yes, she finally figured out what causes it. That's why her youngest is almost 6.

Yes, she has a television.

She enjoys referring to herself in the third person.

If you would like to submit a question for Chris to answer publicly, please do so to adviceforparentsoftweens[at]gmail[dot]com.


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7 Responses to “It Is None of My Business What Other Teenagers Do, Or Is It?”

  1. Maggie Apr 30 at 8:19 am Reply Reply

    I would want to know,so I’m on the TELL side. I like the idea of suggesting it might be all a bad rumour, but the other mom should “check it out”. That way you’re not judging her parenting or her child, just informing her, and she can just say “thanks” and then act on it or not. 14… that’s pretty scary. Good luck with the conversation!

  2. Liz Apr 30 at 10:05 am Reply Reply

    I agree the other parents should know.  However, even if you claim your daughter didn’t tell you, that note might not get passed on if the parents confront their kids.  If the teens hear that Mrs. X told their parents, they’ll likely assume it was Mrs. X’s daughter who informed her.  Maybe consider an anonymous note?
    Good luck!  Letting them know is definitely the right thing to do.  I hope those teens learn to make better decisions.  Kudos to you for having such good, open conversations with your daughter, and such an easy way to broach the topic of drugs, alcohol, and sex!

  3. AmyRenee Apr 30 at 11:56 am Reply Reply

    if you want to make it seem like it WASN’T your daughter that told you, maybe you could say that you heard it from another parent about girls in your daughter’s grade and that you intend to talk to your daughter about these issues and suggest they do the same. That way you aren’t accusing their daughters, just letting them know it’s happening with some girls their age and not judging them as parents.

  4. Kim May 01 at 11:46 am Reply Reply

    I say do NOT tell. I found out one of my son’s friends was showing him child porn on the internet. When I spoke to his mother about it, she not only never spoke to me again, but she told her son who had told her. He told all of their buddies, and no one spoke to my son for his entire senior year of highschool. He didn’t get to go to prom or any activities and was kicked out of his band. He’s in his 4th year of college and to this date not a single one of his classmates have spoken to him. He finally moved out of our small village last year just to get away from it all. When he comes home to visit, he will not go to any of our local stores because it just hurts him too much when he runs into his old classmates. Deep down, although he knows why I told, I don’t think he has ever forgiven me for it. In trying to save a friend’s teenage son, I destroyed the life of my own.

    • Jen May 01 at 9:11 pm Reply Reply

      Kim…I am so sorry that your son was ostracized by his peers. He did nothing wrong. The other boy, however, not only did something wrong but horribly illegal and you did the right thing by stepping forward.
      For other parents who find themselves in this very tricky sittuation I would like to suggest a middle ground by saying it might be worth while to go to the school principal or psychologist. S/he might not be able or even willing to help directly but may have some solid advice on how to approach the situation.

  5. Lisa May 02 at 9:23 pm Reply Reply

    I’m with Kim (and agree with Jen). Don’t tell. It’s not your business. No matter how you would couch it, those kids will know the news came from your daughter.

  6. Mom of Teens Jul 28 at 9:08 pm Reply Reply

    I have faced this myself. I say TELL. You have several options.
    1) Send an anonymous email to one of the parents from a WiFi hot spot. There is no need to explain why you are writing. A simple, blunt note keeps your identity quiet and delivers the goods more palatably. “I am the parent of a high schooler and if I were you, I’d want to know. I learned your daughter Stacy attends parties where there is drinking, sex, and drugs, and that she is not where she tells you she is. One of the party houses is apparently located at _____. Good luck and God bless.”
    2) Call the local school resource officer and/or counselor and/or principal. They will take the tip very seriously and protect the identity of you and your child. You can do this anonymously also, by calling and *67 your phone number and/or insisting that you not give your name. Make sure that you give enough truth about your being a parent.
    3) With the driving-age child who is a good friend of your child whom you’ve known a long time, invite her to Starbucks and advise this has come to your attention and you are concerned. Tell her, and let it be true, that your child has no idea you have arranged for the meeting. Make the source of the info broad and vague, “neighbors, other parents, saw you pass”. If need be, give her a time limit to tell her own parents before you do, and then do it.
    4) Sometimes, all you have to do is tell the school officials or the parent, anonymously if you need to, the address of the social media, where the kids post pix, inclinations, and activities.

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