Dear Harlan: My 17-year-old daughter made a poor decision that we’re struggling with. She had two friends over at our house when we were out one night. She has always been a rule follower and a good kid. She and her friends went into our bar and emptied the vodka bottle. We figured it out because they replaced the vodka with water. At first she denied it. After showing her the evidence, she admitted it. She said it was not her idea. Her friends pressured her and she’s sorry it happened. They didn’t go anywhere and didn’t do anything else. She feels awful. We don’t know how to trust her after this happened. We’ve grounded her until we sort this out. We feel like we don’t know her anymore. What else could she be doing? How can we trust her again? We are struggling.
— Struggling Mom
Dear Struggling Mom: You still know her. She’s just a normal teenager who got caught experimenting. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, by age 18, about 58% of teens have had at least one drink. I don’t know how many drinks your daughter had that night, but it was at least one. Lock up the booze and let this settle in. Then use this event as a gift. Be grateful she admitted her mistake. Be thankful she didn’t drive. Appreciate that she was smart about being stupid. Ask her questions about what happened. Why did she do this? What could she have done differently? Did she like the taste? What can she do the next time her friends have this idea? Remind her that no matter what, you will always love her and be there for her. You will pick her up and drive if she is ever in a dangerous situation. How you respond to this will make you an ally or an enemy. This is a way for you to show her that while you are not happy with her choices, you want to be there to help her learn and make better choices. She is still your amazing daughter. This is just the first of many more mistakes she will make as she becomes an adult.
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