Dear Harlan: We moved to a new home a few months ago, and my daughter has had a hard time finding friends. This has been a challenge for her and us. We were happy to welcome her new friend into our home, but the problem is the girl’s parents. There is something wrong with them. My husband thinks they spend too much time talking, drinking and having parties. My daughter wants to spend time at this friend’s house, but we do not trust her parents. There have been multiple red flags. My daughter doesn’t understand why we are not allowing her to spend time at her new friend’s house. We don’t want to hurt the friendship, but we aren’t comfortable with her spending time at her house. How do you suggest we bring this up without telling her everything? — New Neighbor
Dear New Neighbor: Your letter reminds me of the book “Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane)” by Gavin de Becker, who talks about listening to your parental instincts. Listen to the whispers. Your gut is telling you that something is wrong with these parents. It’s an inconvenient feeling. It’s more convenient to ignore your gut and let your daughter hang out at their house. But that’s the wrong decision. The truth is that you need get to know this girl’s parents before you can feel comfortable having her spend time at their house. This is all you need to tell your daughter. Explain that you will make an effort to get to know her parents better. Either your opinion will change, or it won’t. Your daughter doesn’t have to like or agree with you. Give her permission to make you the bad guys/overprotective parents. At the same time, have your daughter bring her new friend to your house. Get to know her. As you get to know her family better, your feelings may change. In the meantime, continue to help your daughter get involved in activities that will put her in more places with more people. The more time she spends doing things she loves, the sooner she will make more friends.