Breaking Confidentiality: Parental Units
Not Seduced by Secrets
When asked, “Can you keep a secret?” it means you are about to get hit with some pretty deep material. Never promise to keep a secret. In most cases you have an obligation to get help for that person if they are going to 1) harm themselves, 2) harm someone else or 3) cause damage to property. Assure them you will walk them through whatever they’re going through no matter how ugly. Often this involves getting in touch with your Senior Pastor and determining who needs to know this information (parents, police, paramedics, etc.). NEVER DO THIS PART ALONE.
When Sharing IS Caring
Sharing with Parents
Confidential conversations with minors who have parents who have a vested interest in their children’s well-being is tricky. Adolescents are entering an age where they begin to have some expectation of privacy and legally may have claim to it. When you need to break confidentiality, parents often need to be in the loop. However, there are times when the information is not “harmful” to the extent where confidentiality would need to be breached (see above). I find in these situations it is best to encourage the teen and their parent to talk with each other. If a parent comes demanding information, encourage them to talk directly with their youth. Let them know it will help build a stronger relationship. My disclosing the conversation could harm their relationship with their teen (by being a nosy, busy-body, helicopter parent) and the youth and their friends will no longer trust me. Affirm your support for the parent and evaluate if you could help by offering the student to mediate this conversation. If you ever find yourself in one of those meetings, try to brief both sides separately on what is about to happen, then work to have them take turns talking. Stay as neutral as possible.