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A Late-Night Suicide Threat

Dr. Catherine Pearlman on

Dear Family Coach: Last night, my 16-year old snuck out of the house with friends at 2 a.m. They were on a mission to help a girl who was threatening suicide. My son did call me after they called the police. But I don't know why he got involved, and I'm not all right with him sneaking out. How should I reprimand him? -- Dad

Dear Dad: Your son's heart was in the right place. It's important to remember that. He risked getting in trouble to help another teen fight through a hard time. There's something to be said for that kind of compassion. Lots of kids would just gossip about a depressed girl. Your son acted to obtain some help. Let him know that you think it's pretty amazing.

However, he had no business sneaking out of the house to help this girl. It doesn't matter that you don't know why he got involved. It's good that he did, because it probably saved this girl's life. But from now on, he should be empowered to ask for help when he needs it. Tell him in no uncertain terms that he is never allowed to sneak out of the house. I would give him a pass this time. But make it clear that if it ever happens again, for any circumstance, there will be severe consequences.

Try to explain that as a parent, one of your main jobs is to safely usher him into adulthood. Parents worry about their kids. Have him imagine the fear you would have felt if you had walked down the hall only to realize he wasn't in his bed. You would have panicked. Even if you were able to get in touch with him on his cellphone in five seconds flat, those five seconds would have be the longest, worst seconds of your life. He needs to respect you and trust that you will always help him in an emergency.

Dear Family Coach: Our son loves music, and we don't want to squelch that. But he walks around the house with headphones on at all times. We want him to communicate with us while at home. If we want to speak with him, we have resorted to texting him. How can we get him to take headphones off at home? -- Music Lover's Parents

Dear Parents: I don't see this as an all-or-nothing scenario. To you, it sounds like they need to be always on or always off. That seems extreme and unnecessary.

Allow your son to enjoy his music with headphones, but limit the time just as you would screen time. If he were blasting music in his room, he wouldn't hear you calling for him. But it might be worse if you were subjected to his love of Metallica or (heaven forbid) Justin Bieber at all times. So try to find an agreeable time frame for him to enjoy music through headphones. And have times when he is not allowed to use them at all -- for example, at the table or when company is in the house.

Your son's music might be his passion. But it also might be a convenient way to escape any social interaction. When he has headphones on, people are probably less likely to try to communicate with him. Try to give him some space to withdraw, but bring him back into the fold sometimes, too.

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Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at questions@thefamilycoach.com. To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate Inc.
 

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