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Q. My daughter, a 17-year-old high-school senior, has a new best friend who has already received two speeding tickets and a citation for possessing alcohol. We want to tell our daughter she can't see this girl. But won't that make matters worse?
A. Probably. Instead, help her identify when this relationship is putting her in danger and teach her how to communicate boundaries in a way that keeps both girls' dignity intact. Start by telling her that you believe she has good judgment so there must be some redeeming qualities about this new friend—and you'd like to know what they are.
Then you can ask the tougher questions. Like, is your daughter becoming this girl's go-to designated driver? Does this girl hang out with people who make your daughter uneasy? What's your daughter's plan for exiting an uncomfortable situation? Does this girl have larger problems that would be better solved by involving a caring adult? What you want to show her is that there's a fine line between being part of a friend's support system (notice I said part of) and being her caretaker, a job she's not equipped for.
Originally published in the February 2008 issue of Family Circle magazine.