Who do you tell?

An issue I have been exploring this week through conversations with a few parents is whether or not they feel it is their place to tell parents of other teenagers what the teenagers are doing. In other words, if your teen’s best friend or romantic partner is over at your house, and you find the teenagers drinking, smoking pot, or having sex, what do you do?

A. Demand that they stop?
B. Tell the teens they can’t ever see each other again?
C. Make sure they’re doing it safely?
D. Call the other teen’s parents?

The correct answer is firstly, and most importantly, C. I’m a bit torn about D. But I think that for the most part the answer is no. Making sure that all of the activities are being done safely and making sure that the teenagers will talk with you in the future about their activities are the first two priorities. Ratting them out will decrease the likelihood of the second, and none of those specific activities are “bad” enough to require outside intervention. (Repeated, perhaps addictive usage may require a different response.) An anguished mother said to me: “What about the community?? How can we raise our kids without the community?” I agree with her on that. But at this point, we don’t have kids. We have teenagers. And the job of the adults in our community is to work with them, not with us, to keep them safe.

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.