Will Your Teenager Call When She Needs Help?

If your teen was in trouble, would she call for help?

It was just another Saturday night in when the phone rang. Actually, I missed the call on my cell first, then it rang.

When a phone call starts a story, you know something big is about to go down. The truth is, I was half-expecting this call to come on some Saturday night someday. Just not tonight.

It was my 14-year-old. Something had to be wrong because otherwise, she would text. For teens, phone calls are rare.

She was at a party, a supervised party where the parents were home. I know because I had done my due diligence as the mother of a young teen. I had called the parent to check.

It’s not that I think my daughter would lie, but there could be a break in the chain of communication. She could have ‘heard’ that the host’s parent would be home. She could have asked the kid, who could have fudged the truth, or been mistaken. She could have misunderstood what I meant by supervised. All of these scenarios have played out in the past. A quick call to the mom confirmed that she did know about the party, she would be home, and my kid was invited.

Then she volunteered specifics. “There will be about 20 kids,” she told me. “No alcohol, no drugs. It’s a chips and pop type of thing. We’ll be here all night.”

I remember high school parties (now called “jams”). I was sneaky. The second my parents were on a plane to anywhere, I would pick up the phone and started inviting. Even back then, with no Internet, the word “party” had power. It spreads faster than a cold.

“Mom, my friend is sick.” My child’s voice was alarmed. “He’s really sick.”

A dad at the hockey rink once gave me the best advice for any parent of a teenager. He said: As early as possible, tell your kids that if they are ever scared or in trouble for any reason – no matter how stupid they or their friends have been – they must call you for help. Make them a promise. If they call for help, for them or for any of their friends, they get a free pass. You will not judge, you will not be mad, you will not punish. No matter where you are, you will get in the car and you will be proud that they had the smarts to call an adult.

I took his advice, and I passed it on – back when my kids swore they would never do stupid things, back when they believed I would blow my stack if they did. Again and again, I told them that in scary situations, their best, smartest move would always be to reach out for help. I promised if they did, they would get a free pass.

And this was my test.

It wasn’t hard to find the house in the dark. The 200-plus kids swarming the street parted to let my husband park.

The host father was in the house, having ordered everyone out once he realized the invite list had swelled on Facebook to ten times its original size, and that kids were showing up ready to puke.

His very apologetic wife was in the family room holding a towel for the boy falling asleep on the floor. My daughter had been trying to keep him awake by feeding bits of bread and whispering in his ear for an hour.

It took four of us to get him up and out the door and into the car. He was mumbling while my daughter promised over and over that everything would turn out fine, that we would take care of him. They were the same words I spoke when I rubbed my little girl’s back when she was small and sick with flu.

Soon, the boy’s mom rang our bell. It was the first time her son had touched alcohol. She was thankful his friend had called us. She was relieved her child was safe.

Going overboard with alcohol or drugs, ingesting more because it feels good and ending up sorry, is not new. It’s happened to all of us. Often, there are serious, even fatal, effects that can’t be undone, and kids need to be warned of those dangers.

This boy was was lucky. Waking up on a sunny Sunday, his pounding head will be all he needs to realize that alcohol and kids don’t mix.

But we parents have lessons to learn, too. We have to keep our eyes open so we can open our kids’ eyes to what’s around them. We have to keep our door open so our kids are never afraid to knock. We have to connect with each other and take care of all kids as if they are our own.

Finally, no matter how smart we know they are, we have to remember that kids make mistakes on their way to becoming adults, and just like all those glasses of spilled milk back when, there will be many. As parents, we need to stay calm and show them how to clean up their mess safely when it happens – because it will. That’s what growing up is all about.










About randi

Randi Chapnik Myers & Mara Shapiro don't get fazed by their teens. At least they try not to.


  1. Yikes! That picture is terrifying.

    I have always told my kids the same thing. PLEASE CALL if you need help, ANY TIME. No judgement. I will be happy to come and get you and proud that you made the right choice in calling me.

    But how scary is this?? arrggg! I’m glad your daughter’s friend was ok by the next day. How could the parents hosting the party have been more vigialnt? Could they have been? How do you supervise without imposing?

    The older our kids get..the more serious the dilemmas they find themselves in.

    • Sometimes supervising is hard. Kids go into bathrooms and lock the door. In our house, kids have a choice when it comes to their backpacks. Leave at the door and we’ll leave it alone, or we check it now and it can come on in.

  2. I had been in a similar situation a few years ago. My daughter was home when she received a phone call from two younger girls in the middle of the night, and they were very drunk. They wanted to come to our house because they were afraid to go home. Always wanted to take care of everyone, my daughter said they could come over. I woke when I heard one of them puking in the toilet. My daughter reassured me all would be fine she was taking care of them. These girls were in two grades below my daughter, grade nine, and knew her because well my middle child was always friendly to everyone. I explained to her that they could not spend the night because if something bad happened we would be responsible and besides their parents should be called in case one of the girls had a medical condition we weren’t aware of . My daughter did not want to do this, she didn’t want to break their confidence. A while later I checked on them, and I was so relieved to find out that my daughter had followed my advice and the girls parents, who were not angry were on their way over to pick the girls up.

    • I would never want my kids to be afraid to come home and feel the need to go to a friend’s house instead. When I was growing up, my house was the one that my older siblings’ friends came to when they needed a parent and didn’t feel comfortable going to their own. My mother was never judgemental. I think Mara said it well when she said that we need to keep our doors OPEN for our kids. NO matter what.

      • All kids make mistakes – we all make mistakes. That’s how we learn. If we punish our kids for reaching out, then they won’t. Bottom line.

    • It’s fantastic that your daughter was mature enough to take your advice. Kids do have a real internal struggle when it comes to outing their friends. But safety must come first in all cases.

  3. Excellent piece of advice Randi!

  4. Jeesh, today in my in-box I saw your post and this one from my friend Renee Jacobson http://rasjacobson.com/2012/10/22/daddy-i-want-a-vodka-tonic-when-underage-kids-demand-alcohol/#comment-18012 There seems to be a theme going on today…
    I think this is such a difficult topic because it is an age-old concern: when should we let kids drink? And I have found that different parents have different philosophies. In my experience, though, I think your friend at the hockey rink gave good advice. I have found with my own daughter that the fact that she can count on us if she needs us kind of keeps her in check. Maybe because she feels she doesn’t have to prove anything or embark in some sort of power struggle? I don’t know. But, for us, it has worked so far….

    • Maybe there’s a theme because it’s Monday, the day after the weekend! I don’t think parents should let underage kids drink. But I agree that when kids know they can call if they are in trouble, they are learning to monitor themselves – at least a little.

  5. That is exactly the advice we gave to our daughter, call us anytime of day or night if you are in trouble and we will not punish or judge. Call if the person who is supposed to drive you home from the party has been drinking, or you just do not feel safe. As a teen hid all kinds of things from my mom, and got myself into potentially dangerous situations, and did not want my teens doing the same.
    She called one night when she was 16 at a party (1 hour away) “Mom, the police are here!” She was whispering in a frantic voice, and she was hiding in a closet! They were there because of a noise complaint apparently. I asked if there were kids doing drugs, she said yes, but outside. She said she’d had some vodka. I told her to get out of the closet, not a good thing to be hiding from the police, and that I was on my way.
    Her friends meanwhile were freaking out that my daughter had called me, she told them “ya, I think it’s better that she finds out from me rather than it be splashed on the front of the local paper tomorrow morning!” lol
    I ended up driving my daughter and 3 of her tipsy, but grateful, friends home. No questions asked.
    She’s now 19, and has told her 16 and 15 year old brothers about that night, and that they should do the same if they ever get into a similar situation. Someone had the nerve to tell me that I was too accepting of the whole ordeal and that I should’ve grounded her, I think that person is out of touch with reality, and how it is to be a teen. Our teen girl is responsible, likes to go out clubbing once in awhile, but is definitely not a train wreck needing to be grounded. And she knows she can still call us if the designated driver of the group slips up.
    I hope our boys realize that as well, but they do generally listen to their big sister!

    • Wow, great story! Thanks so much for posting. Your kids are lucky to have a mom they can count on.

      • Mom *and* Dad they can count on, that`s what parenting is about, right? We`ve told them over and over, we prefer the truth..no matter how much it may shock us, rather than be lied to. We`ve told them that we will always find out if they lie. The truth shall set you free, corny but true 😉

  6. Agreed! The truth is always the better choice but we have to be careful not to freak out when they’re honest.

  7. Excellent article. I love this advice: “As early as possible, tell your kids that if they are ever scared or in trouble for any reason – no matter how stupid they or their friends have been – they must call you for help. Make them a promise. If they call for help, for them or for any of their friends, they get a free pass.”

    I have a four year old daughter and we are just starting to work on telling us the truth and lying/ect. I think the advice is fantastic.

    • That advice has been unbelievably helpful and I’m so happy to pay it forward. I wish someone had given it to me earlier, when my kids were little. It teaches them that the truth is always the best choice.


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