This is a new column written by Communities That Care (CTC) that will appear periodically and contain responses to your questions on dealing with family issues. You can submit your questions by emailing them to [email protected] or in writing to P. O. Box 209, Shelter Island Heights 11965. All information will be handled with the utmost confidentiality and details will be changed to protect your identity. Parenting is the most difficult and most important job any of us do, so CTC looks forward to helping you in anyway possible by sharing our expertise or tapping that of others.
I recently saw the child of a friend of mine doing something she shouldn’t have. I’d like to tell my friend about this but worry about damaging our relationship. What do you suggest?
Dear Shelter Island Parent,
Because we live on this small Island, many of us avoid confronting issues for fear of jeopardizing friendships and/or causing socially uncomfortable situations. While much of how others choose to raise their children is none of our business, if you are sure of what you saw, if it was something that was obviously wrong (not just something you object to) and you would want to know if the situation were reversed, you should make the call. Here are some tips:
• Plan out what you are going to say, perhaps even writing a script for yourself.
• Practice with your spouse or a trusted friend until you feel comfortable, changing the names so things don’t develop into a damaging gossip fest.
• Decide how best you think the message should be given, in person or over the phone.
• Include the fact that you may be mistaken but as a friend you wanted to pass along the information.
• Watch your tone and your choice of words so you don’t sound superior, accusatory or judgmental. No one likes to be told they or their children are wrong or bad) but rather come across as a caring friend/neighbor who would want them to do the same for you.
• Before you sign off, check to make sure the two of you are still on good terms and if there are any hard feelings, talk them out.
Most parents will thank you if you approach them with sensitivity and good intentions. Those who attend our “Guiding Good Choices” workshops and follow-up discussions tell us that the increased communication with other parents, shared concepts, similar “language” and agreement to work together to raise their children, are some of the most valuable things they gain from the program. The fact is, we are all responsible for helping our youth make healthy choices.
To paraphrase a wise woman, “It takes an Island.”
Best of luck,