Experts Explain When To Intervene When Your Teen Worries About A Friend

Parents can learn a surprising amount about their children’s friends, whether they are in with a misguided crowd, vaping, or even depressed and suicidal.

It may be instinctive for parents to reach out to their children in times of trouble – especially when their children approach them directly.

When is that helpful and important, and when is it crossing a line? The answers are nuanced, say experts, and depend on many factors.

Erlanger Turner, a clinical psychologist, said, This is a tricky question. Parenting is always a balance between being an authority figure and giving your child the tools to learn independently.”

Openness about a friend is an indirect request for help.

Barbara Greenberg said, “If your child comes to you with information about another child, your child is signaling you that it’s too much for them to carry and that they need your help.”

How can one tell what’s red flag worthy and what’s just teenage drama? Turner and Greenberg suggest some factors to consider.

Analyze The Risk Factor

Greenberg says to ask yourself, “is their child in danger or crisis?”. Get involved if the answer is yes.

Turner agrees. “Are they being harmed? Try to decide if this child is at risk of harming themselves or someone else — or being harmed by someone else.”


Consider The Trust You Have With Your Child

Greenberg and Turner say you shouldn’t contact the other parent without first talking to your kid if your kid tells you something distressing.

Greenberg says, “If you decide that it would be helpful for the parent to know before you tell the parent, tell the child that you’re going to do it.”

Be Careful When Handling


Once you have decided to contact another parent, how you approach them should be carefully considered – gently, open-mindedly, and not used “as social currency,” Greenberg says.

Turner emphasizes that you are not there to tell the parent how to parent but instead to stress that “this information has been provided to me, and I will do whatever I wish with it.”

Greenberg adds, ” Be open to what might come from that conversation. It’s okay if the parent gets upset, but talking about another person’s child is emotionally sensitive.”