By Donna Kane, MA
High school proms are over, seniors have graduated, and graduation parties are in full swing. A friend of mine heard that a child we have known for years was seen drinking heavily at a graduation party. She asked me my thoughts about her going to the child’s mom and talking with her. I presented this dilemma to JCS Prevention Education experts Howard Reznick and Susan Kurlander. Here is their response.
“It’s hard to be the messenger of unpleasant information, especially when it involves another child. The risks we take when we do this are numerous; an angry reaction from the other child’s parents, and our child being talked about or possibly losing a friendship are just two potential ramifications. The only reward we may get — and it’s a critical one — is that we may be saving a life.
Supposing that you find out that your child’s friend is drinking or using drugs. Maybe it’s just one incident, or maybe it’s a pattern. The information you have may be part of a larger picture that could be of concern and value to that child’s parent.
Once you decide to share the information you have, how do you accomplish this? One way of telling the parent(s) is to ask: “If your child were engaging in behavior that might be harmful to him/her and I knew about it, would you want me to tell you?” Most parents would readily say “yes” to that question. You can then connect their answer to what you’re about to say.
Be as specific as possible in what you choose to say. In your first few sentences, give the who, what, where, when information that you have, because the parents may not hear much else of what you have to say after that. Whether it’s anger, denial, panic or concern, the parents’ reaction is likely to be an emotional one.
No one wants to be a “snitch.” Sometimes, though, we have to be “the parents” and do the right thing. This doesn’t make us the most popular person at the time, but in the long run it can win us respect – self respect – and the knowledge that we have had the courage possibly to save a life.
Whatever the parents’ reaction, it might be helpful to suggest resource options such as what the child’s school or Jewish Community Services has to offer. By ending the conversation this way, the information you are sharing might be less overwhelming. Your speaking out could lead to constructive responses, which may ultimately lead to needed help. For more information, check out www.jcsbaltimore.org/prevention.”
By Donna Kane, MA, Community Liaison, Access Services, Jewish Community Services, Baltimore, MD
Thanks to Howard Reznick, LCSW-C, Senior Manager, and Susan Kurlander, M.Ed., Health Educator, both with Prevention Education Services, Jewish Community Services, Baltimore, MD