Dear Sound Sleeper,
I agree with your instinct to let the parents of the other girls know what happened. Your daughter and her friends chose
to do something they knew was wrong. I’m as relieved as you are that nothing bad happened to them, but good parenting
demands that you give their moms and dads an opportunity to do their own good parenting. They can’t do their jobs
if they don’t know what happened.
If your daughter had been spending the night at someone else’s home and had chosen to sneak out, you’d want
to know about it, wouldn’t you? How else would you be able to impress upon her that what she’d done was not
acceptable behavior and why? How else would you have the opportunity to talk to her about trust, etc. By not informing
the other parents you become part of a cover-up. Your silence gets the girls off the hook and sends the message that they
got away with something dangerous and why not try it again?
Your daughter “lost it” because she’s afraid her friends will be mad at her. And they probably will
be. But she will have to deal with it. If her “friends” turn on her and blame her for their troubles, they’re
not taking responsibility for their part in this situation. Likewise, if your daughter blames you for her troubles, then
she’s not taking responsibility for her own part.
One other thing. By hosting the sleep-over you were the responsible adult in this situation. Even though you didn’t
know what was going on when they snuck out, you failed in safe-guarding them. By admitting your culpability to the other
parents, you are modeling what it means to take responsibility. So you can let your daughter know that it’s not going
to be easy for you to have those conversations with the parents. You’re showing her that you too will be experiencing
some negative consequences of her actions.
Talk to the parents and talk to your daughter about a consequence that feels appropriate for the infraction. Part of that
consequence needs to include being where she says she’s going to be at all times and being willing for you to check
up on her at any time you choose WITHOUT her getting huffy and resentful while she’s “earning back” your
lost trust in her.
Tell her also that nothing means more to you than being able to trust her. Her actions that night damaged that trust.
Only she can show by her future actions that that night was an aberration and that she is, in fact, a trustworthy person.
Tell her also that you are on her side... And that you support her learning that it’s never a good idea to ignore
a “bad feeling in your stomach.” Ask her what thoughts she had that accompanied that “bad feeling”...
What did she say to herself at that time that made it okay to continue doing something that she knew was wrong? This would
be a very good way for you to help her explore why her “inner voice” is there to help her do the right thing.
When peer pressure causes her to ignore what she knows is right, it’s going to lead to bad choices.
Sound like a plan?