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Underage Drinking

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My 17-year-old son was out with three friends on the weekend and called to ask if they could sleep over. When they came home I discovered that they'd been drinking. My son told me this was the first time he'd experimented with alcohol and he was very apologetic. I sent him to bed and said we would discuss this further the next day (which we did). However, I allowed the other boys to stay. Should I have called the other boys' parents?

A: This is not an easy moral and ethical dilemma to solve. If you were the parent of one of those boys, would you want to know? I would be guided by your response to that question. I don't see your informing the parents of these other kids as betraying your son. He should be able to understand that you consider it your responsibility not to keep this secret for the other boys. Of course, he will probably express anger at your telling these other parents and he will probably have to endure some complaints from these boys.

Would alerting these parents serve the greater good in the long run? This decision isn't about being popular; it's about finding the answers that will leave you with a clear conscience and a sense of being a responsible parent.

More on: Expert Advice

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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