The Friend's Parents

Parent Q&A

  • We recently learned my son's best friend (just turned 9) is being left at home alone for extended periods of time. I've noticed him in the schoolyard after school for many hours alone and he hides. He does not attend after-school care because his mom "cannot" pay for it. I do not know much about his mother; I know she is a single and hard-working mom, who has a demanding job and teaches two night classes at the university. I know he misses his dad, who recently left his family. I say the latter because he does seem to be sad these days but I think it's more about his dad moving back to China. I don't suspect any abuse. I know that his mother is planning on taking a cruise in the near future and prepping him to stay alone for seven days. This child does very well in school and seems to be mature for his age. He also indicated he's not allowed to use the stove/oven, only microwaves and is receiving money in case he needs food. He lives in a very safe, affluent gated community, where can walk to a store. Am I to report this? Or is this just a MYOB situation? I know my mom told me stories of how she used to travel for three miles each way to and from school on a bus in the 1960s in SF and stay at home for three days at a time alone (with siblings). Is it a cultural thing? I'm not sure what to do or if I just stay clear of this one. 

    She would leave him alone 7 days? At home by himself? And to go on a cruise? Even if it was for a more legitimate motive I would find it inacceptable, but for a cruise.... If you are sure about what you say, I would start by talking to the school (teacher, principal) to see if the situation can be handled before it goes wild (social services etc). But I would surly not let the kid be left alone for 7 days. Inacceptable. You are right to step in.

    It's nice of you to be concerned, but perhaps if you don't suspect abuse and he seems to be doing okay in school, how about just offering to check in on the son while she's on a cruise, or invite him for dinner or a sleep over  with your own son so he's not lonely---rather than report it (?). I remember also being left alone as a child with siblings (one year older and another 6 years younger). Especially if they live in an affluent neighborhood, indeed it seems a bit sad, but not neglect. 

    I know this might be too much to ask but are you in a position to offer any support? Can he stay at your house for that week? Can he go home with any classmates after school to be picked up later by parent? I know it’s a sensitive subject. When I was growing up  (granted in the suburbs) there were plenty of days and nights where one of the neighbors sets of kids or myself and my siblings were passed off to the other neighbors after school or evenings because one set of parents or the other was busy or away or on vacation. We had a real village set up in our neighborhood that made it easy for parents to have a community of other parents to ask for help from. It’s so much harder now a days and especially in an urban setting to ask for help from other parents. Is there a comfortable way you or one of the other families the child is close to could offer some sort of help? It really does take a village.

  • This is my first time writing the network and I ask for gentle replies, only, please.

    This situation is so weird, but I'm hoping someone who has experienced something similar to it is willing to comment. Thanks in advance for reading! 

    Last year my daughter was with her best friend and her best friend’s mom at a festival that was run by my former employer. The mom knew my former employer and she ran into her. While they were chatting, my former boss asked how I was doing. The mom replied that I was “in my own world” and I “seldom left the house" in front of my daughter. When my daughter got back home, she told me what took place. She is not one to fabricate things like this; I believed her.

    I texted the mom asking her about the conversation, and she wrote back a brief text, downplaying what she said. She wrote that she "was joking and she missed me." (We had never been very close but we had always been on friendly terms.) Moreover, what this mom said about me to my former boss was false—at that time, I was making a bunch of public appearances and I wasn't in my own world whatsoever. 

    We’ve known this mom and her husband for over a decade. We've been kind to them. I was so hurt by her behavior and since then, I’ve had no contact with her. I consider her toxic to my mental health. But of course I allow my daughter to continue her friendship with her best friend. My husband deals with the mom & and dad; he does not wish to serve as a mediator and I can’t force him to do it. 

    My best friend encouraged me to have coffee with this mom. I wish I could do that but I can’t handle a face-to-face meeting with her— I’ve built up too much anger. You see, after I found out about what she said about me, I lost sleep over it for several nights in a row. I have bipolar disorder and the sleep loss triggered symptoms of my illness. I was already under a ton of stress when this happened because it was 3 days before my first book was published. As a result, during the week my book was published (a project that was ten years in the making) I was sleep-deprived and felt humiliated by having someone who I considered a friend say disparaging things about me the way she did.

    I’ve made the major mistake of letting this stupid thing fester. 

    Amazingly, I haven’t run into her yet but it’s only a matter of time. I could write her a letter but I haven’t been able to sit down and write it—it’s ironic since I’m an author. I’m writing our group to see if anyone has had a problem remotely like mine and to learn how you handled it.

    Thanks again for any insights you can share with me! 

    I don't have any direct experience with anything like this, but most of us parents have agreed to put up with people we aren't crazy about, and wouldn't choose to hang out with otherwise (similar to work situations, I guess.) We have certainly all dealt with hearing about things said behind our backs - true or not. I think the number one thing you should focus on is why/how this has gotten under your skin so much, and learning from that in order to help you in similar future situations - basically anytime someone says or thinks something negative about you. You recognize that it's insignificant, but you see that it's still bothering you more than it should. That's the kind of thing therapists can help with a lot. I also tend to care too much about what others think, and it's gotten better over time, but is always an issue for me to keep in mind. In terms of practical concerns, you'll obviously want to make sure your daughter is feeling okay about what she heard. She knows you far better than this person does, and can judge for herself what is true, but a conversation about it never hurts also - you've probably already done that. It's a lesson in the unfortunate fact that people say things about others that aren't necessarily true (we are all guilty of it) and that we have to work on not letting things like that get to us. Also, seeing how this kind of behavior makes people feel is a lesson. The fact that this mom was careless enough to say this in front of your daughter says something about her own character too. For you, besides being the mother of your daughter's friend, she's not someone you have to deal with regularly - not a family member, roommate, coworker, etc. I would try to focus on your own reaction to it in a productive way - recognizing it and hopefully learning and moving on from it, and not focus on the actual content of what she said or even the person who said it - i.e. not meeting with her, writing a letter, or giving the incident any more attention than it's already gotten. 

    I think you are completely overreacting. You say you have been busy writing a book so I imagine that is what she might have meant by saying you were in your own world. You admit you are letting this get to you so the question is why? I suggest a visit to a therapist or your psychiatrist to get some clarity around what I see as a strong reaction to a comment that does not seem to warrant much of anything. Good luck !

    Hi, I see that this has caused you anguish. From my perspective, I wonder if you’re unnecessarily letting the situation / the person get under your skin?  You know your presence in the outside world - the fact that you’re not “hardly leaving the house” or whatever she said. And what does “in your own world” even mean?  I might try to “let it go” a bit more - it doesn’t seem as if she’s continually saying such things, and only she knows what she meant by it. Your behavior pretty well proves that you’re not isolated, if that’s what she meant. And really, what if you were?  That’s not really any of her concern I don’t think. 

    Lots of introverts can 90% of the time seem like they are “in their own world” to others, and in fact much prefer not to go out a lot. If that’s who you are, you’ve probably come to realize by now that we live in a world that misunderstands introverts. 

    If anyone in this situation has a “problem”, I’d say it’s her. I wish you the  best. Mostly, I wish you peace, and sleep...

Archived Q&A and Reviews

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Teen friend's drinking problem - should I call the parents?

June 2013

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 for this).

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 ? Very Concerned.

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 today. 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

Neighbor kid smoking pot. Do we tell parents?

Feb 2013

We saw our 15 year old neighbor smoking pot in her backyard with a friend. It was after school. Mom was not home. (Dad lives elsewhere). Do we tell the mom? We are friendly with this family but not close. - I think I'd want to know?

IMO you should definitely tell the mom, and especially if she is a single mom. I was 15 and smoking pot when someone told my parents. My life was in the beginning stages of heading down a path that wasn't going to lead to anything good. My parents becoming aware of what I was doing combined with them taking action quickly, is what stopped me from hanging out with the wrong crowd. anon
Yes. They either know and have dealt with it already so would likely want to follow up. Or they don't know and should. been there
No. Mind your own business. If it were a family member or another family very close to you, that would be different. But since you say you don't know these people very well, then you should butt out and let them handle their children in their own way. J
None of your business. Emilie
Tell them. There's growing evidence that pot impairs certain kinds of memory and learning as well as the perception of ''newness'' in adolescents. An example of this is that when exposed to something new, a teen who smokes pot regularly will not perceive it as often as being new. This process is linked to forms of learning and being able to detect foreground things from background things. Being able to feel ''newness'' in a normal way also makes places like school more interesting.

It's not clear yet if all returns to normal after a teens stop smoking pot. There's another recent study that found some lasting cognitive impairments in teen pot smokers who quit which didn't last in adult smokers, who started smoking pot as adults and then quit.

So anyway, the data's not all in on pot, but it's looking like regular use is not good for teens. And remember the pot in 2013 is really a lot stronger than the pot from the 80's.

If you want more information, look at the CSAM website( California Society of Addiction Medicine). So I'd tell the parents. J

It's interesting the differences of opinion on this one. We seem to live a split culture, where some people lean more to individualist thinking (take care of one's own and leave others in freedom to care for themselves (or not) and a more social/community oriented mindset that feels interdependent and connected to the their community and welfare of others. I don't know where you lie on the spectrum, but if you have a relationship with your neighbors, and have a more social outlook, and care about their children, I would mention it. If you feel like it's none of your business, then stay out of it. I think you ought to do what you feel is right. Heather
If you are talking about the milieu or even safety of your neighborhood, you are technically witnessing a crime. If another hardliner neighbor saw the same thing as you and wanted to, they could call the cops. This could put this teenager's pot use into a whole other realm that may not be good for the family.

But more importantly, if you are talking about the health and safety of this kid (a member of your village, no?) you really need to give his well-being full consideration. As a parent, I may or may not be OK with my teenage son smoking pot, but I would certainly want to know and have the chance to speak with him about the health implications and any restrictions I may need to lay out (i.e. doing it privately, from whom to buy, etc.)

You don't need to be judgmental or give any more information than what you know or saw. You just need to give this kid's parents the chance to do their job and let them know what is going on. This IS your business. Elizabeth

Disliking my kids' friend's mom

Feb 2013

Hi, 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! anon

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. Been there

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, she will 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. Anonymous

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 dates.

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. lisa

Hi Lisa, 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. Anon Mom

Tell friend's mom about boyfriend or not?

April 2012

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 involved.)

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. Been there

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. Another mom
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 outcome.

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.'' BHS mom

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 times.

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. Anon

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. Maria
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 parent. em

Should I confirm the other parents are home when my 14-y-o visits?

Dec 2004

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 money.)

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!'' Tim

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 trust.

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. Heather

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! Anon
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 their fun. anon
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 their friends. Susan
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. anon.

17-y-o drinking with friend - I don't know the parents

Sept 1999

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 him. Good-luck and thanks for bringing up such an important issues. a mom
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. -- Dana
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. --jahlee
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. -- Betty