Dear Harlan: I have a problem that’s causing me a lot of stress. I was at a party with a group of friends last weekend, and campus police showed up. Everyone ran one way, but I ran the wrong way. That’s when I got arrested. This is my first year in college and I come from a very conservative family. I haven’t told my parents about any of this. They would overreact and force me to go home. They would make me go to a community college closer to home next year. I don’t want to move back home. I don’t want to leave. One of my friends suggested that I go to legal services on campus to get some advice. The person I talked to told me to talk to my parents and get their help. There is a court date and legal fees and other things I don’t completely understand. How can I tell my parents what happened without them sending me home?
— Messed Up
Dear Messed Up: Own it. Don’t pretend you were right. Don’t blame your way out of this. Don’t make this about anyone but you. Go into this taking full responsibility for what happened. Make this the most mature, honest and direct conversation you’ve ever had with your parents. Explain what happened. Tell them what you did wrong. Tell them what you did right. You can make it about one drink and one big mistake. Explain that you went to legal services and were told that you need help handling the situation. Apologize. Offer to help with the legal fees. Make it clear that you recognize what you did was wrong and that it will never happen again. If your parents have a big reaction, expect it. Once they settle down, your mature nature and directness will be reassuring. This will be what you can use to plead your case to get a second chance.