Randi from Baltimore writes:
My friendship problem impacts two generations: me and my friend Wendy and our two daughters, Jenna and Lauren.
Jenna and Lauren are both 16 and facing some teen challenges, i.e., drinking and sex. Sally and I both have what we think are open dialogue with our daughters about what is going on with their friends and we think we have a clue what our daughters are doing. I believe we both believe we are teaching our daughters to act responsibly. Recently, my Jenna came to me and said, "I have to talk to you mom but you have to swear not to tell anyone." Sensing my daughter's concern, I agreed. What she told me was that Lauren got very drunk at a party and had unprotected sex with an older boy and when she sobered up, she freaked out and told Jenna. Jenna was seeking my advice on what to do. If I talk to Wendy, I may break up two friendships: Lauren and Jenna's because I will have divulged that Jenna broke a confidence and mine and Wendy's. What if Lauren denies it and Wendy feels the need to believe her? What if it is too hard to believe Lauren would have unprotected sex at 16 and Wendy attacks Jenna? I am stumped. How do we get out of this with the two friendships intact?
Leslie Adler: Randi:
Lauren's "freaking out" indicates to me that she knows she did not "act responsibly" and she is afraid. Jenna coming to you and breaking a confidence is a cry for help. Jenna is saying this is too much for her to handle and that she thinks someone needs to intervene to talk to Lauren. You can act in ways that will be safe in both friendships.
You can speak to Lauren in a safe and comfortable setting. You can tell her Jenna came to you because she loves her and is concerned for her and you are speaking to her for the same reasons. Ask if she wants to talk to you about what happened. Explain to Lauren that you think she should seek medical attention and that you believe Wendy needs to know about this. Offer to be there when she tells her or offer to tell her for Lauren so you can encourage Wendy to react constructively. If Lauren is resistant, be firm that you wanted to give her the opportunity to speak to Wendy on your own but you feel compelled to let her know that you have concerns about her daughter's behavior. If you avoid gossip and a holier than though attitude ... and approach talking to both Lauren and Wendy with love, both friendships will get stronger.