Dear Doctor,

This has got to be a thing that happens in lots of families. It involves our son, who is in high school. He is smart, well liked, an athlete. His father and I have a concern about two of his friends. He likes them a lot, and he hangs out with them much more than we would like. They are into smoking and maybe selling pot. One vapes. Both are as sneaky as they come. We want our son to not get hurt. Any help for us?

Worried

Dear Worried,

You think they are sneaky. You have got to be sneakier.

By that I mean your skills as a parent need to be sharp, but not obvious.

Begin by having a better knowledge of your son’s friends. This means having them in your home. Perhaps have them stay for dinner. You are much better off knowing your son’s friends and their whereabouts than not. This also allows you to know their behavior and style and to observe your son’s interactions with them. Is he paying attention? What does he like or admire about them?

Then, be a teacher and consultant. Ask him questions. For example, “Have you ever noticed ...?” “Do you think your friend has thought about ...?” You get the idea. What you are doing is showing him how to have a critical and discerning eye. If you criticize his friends, you are, in his mind, also doing the same to him. He will not be open to your judgment.

When he does say something about them — and he will — affirm or reinforce a keen observation.

Meanwhile, keep cheering his values, which you have taught him. Growing up is a trip, which takes some time.

Dr. Larry Larsen is an Andover psychologist. If you would like to ask a question, or respond to one, email him at lrryllrsn@CS.com.

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