Q. My 15-year-old son's friends are all allowed to go to concerts by themselves, which I'm not comfortable with. What should I do?
A. Since someone has to provide the transportation, you (or another responsible adult) should go with them -- and stay. Either read a book in the parking lot or sit in the audience two rows up and a little over. You'll be close enough to keep an eye on them but far enough away so you aren't completely embarrassing. Well before the event make a plan with every parent and child about when and where you'll meet the kids after the concert and the protocol if someone doesn't show up. Although I'm not a huge fan of kids having their own cell phones, in this situation they should have one, and you should have their numbers. If someone doesn't appear within 10 minutes of the agreed-upon time, call him. If he hasn't shown up within 20 minutes, contact his parents.
Q. My daughter has always been a good student. But it's several weeks into her first year of high school, and she doesn't seem to be making a smooth transition. She says none of her close friends go to her school, she hates the teachers, and she's drowning in work. How can I help?
A. Next time she brings up problems, stop what you're doing (no multitasking in this situation) and say, "I'm so sorry. Let's come up with some ideas to help you feel better." Then look for simple, manageable ways she can make some changes. Have her identify one adult at school she can build a relationship with and also a peer in one of her classes. Or is there a club she's interested in? If things don't improve in another month and she continues to dread school, uses being sick as a way to avoid it, or can't concentrate, ask her guidance counselor for help. You may also want to ask for the name of a therapist.
Q. The list of activities the PTA needs volunteers for is overwhelming. I want to be involved, but I have so little time. What do you advise?
A. I know exactly how you feel. Remind yourself that children want mothers who are strong, calm, and comforting, not someone who's running around hyper and anxious because she can't say no to the PTA. If you still want to volunteer, each semester ask your child's teacher, counselor, coach, or administrator if there is something you can help with in the school for one morning or afternoon.
Q. My 16-year-old son has found his first love. He spends all his free time with her, then is on the phone at least a couple hours at night, and that's not counting the IMing and text messaging. Is this relationship too intense?
A. A teenager's first love is a powerful experience, but it's not an excuse to abandon his responsibilities. Set rules about phone and computer use and enforce them. Hover until he hangs up or signs off and review his cell account online to confirm when and for how long he's communicating.
But it's not all about rules. Ask him why he likes her (watch your tone so you don't sound like an interrogator). Then tell him your non-negotiables, including respect (no name calling when they argue) and maintaining relationships with his other friends and his family. Lastly, go over your expectations and values about sex. If he doesn't feel comfortable talking to you, find another adult to speak with him -- someone he thinks is cool and who shares your values.