Do you know a child who is about to be a train wreck?
I'm lucky, my kids are really open about talking about their friends with me. Though I admit, at times, this can be a mixed blessing. Because I care a lot about kids, and I care a lot about parents, and when the two groups in the family aren't able to communicate well, or the parent may not see what's going on for their child, it can be hard to know whether or not to step in and try to help by at least sharing the information. Especially if you don't know the other parent.
Who else has struggled with this? The knowing about events or circumstances your child's friend is going through and you've wondered/hesitated/hoped/prayed things would be okay because you just didn't know if you should get involved or how the other parent might digest the information you want to share.
This has been my struggle for the past few weeks.
I know what I would do if there were clear evidence of regular alcohol or drug use in someone's child and they didn't know about it (and I didn't know the parent), I would risk the situation and make contact with the parent in the name of the child's well-being. Having been the mother of a son who has struggled with addiction, who started drinking casually at fifteen, I honestly don't think I could just look away.
Not that every kid who has a drink as a teenager is going to become an alcoholic, that's an overstatement. But, if my child has come to me with several accounts of a teen who has repeatedly been binge drinking or using pot (or worse) I believe stepping up is the best thing to do. It takes a village, right? Don't we all agree on that? (No need to answer the question.)
The situation I'm talking about is a little more "gray"...my child's friend has parents going through a split and there have been a few red flags on my radar over the past few months that, while at the moment this child (to my knowledge) has not gotten involved in using drugs or alcohol, does have the potential to be set up to fall in that direction if things don't change. Or, potentially to be put in another situation where the love and attention she is seeking will be misguided and used to her disadvantage.
I have empathy for the parents who are likely going through emotional upheaval, stress, potentially financial issues, and who knows what else. I am sure they are doing the best they can with what they know as they parent their kids through these circumstances. And of course it's possible they do know 100% of what's going on with their child and haven't found the time or energy or direction to change the course.
There are increasing signs of this child's behavior being a call for help, and I can't but wonder if the parents knew some of these things if it might have an impact that could redirect her before potential danger finds her.
The risks involved in my reaching out to this parent include their being angry at the child for sharing family information and then the consequences for her due to that sharing. Of course there is the chance they could turn on me for just trying to help. The larger ripple might include my child losing a friend in the process for opening their mouth to me about the friend's troubles.
If you've been in this situation I know you understand the "damned if I do; damned if I don't" conversation going on inside of my head. And we all know not deciding is a decision in and of itself.
So, in this moment, as in many others I have come across in three decades of parenting, it calls me to tap into my intuition.
I have to ask myself...What is my intention in making contact with this parent? Am I coming from a space of fear, or of awareness? (In other words, how credible is the information I have?) What do I hope to accomplish in going to the parent? How will I feel if the parent shuns me or if nothing comes of the information I have shared? Do I talk with my child before I reach out to the parent?
If you are in this situation now, or in the future, these are some of the questions you can ask yourself before you just quickly react to the situation you are contemplating stepping into.
Have you been in a similar situation? If so, what did you do and what happened as a result of your action? I'm curious to discuss this topic further because I believe a lot of us have been in the shoes I'm wearing.
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