Dear Coleen: My pal gets legless and she’s fallen in with a bad crowd

Dear Coleen

I’m 17 and I have a really close friend who’s drinking too much – to the point of collapsing and being carried home.

Lately, she’s fallen in with a group of girls who are off the rails and she’s started to behave in the same way, but it’s not really who she is.

She’s a smart girl with a bright future and I’m very worried about where this path will take her.

She’s also started making excuses not to go out with me or letting me down at the last minute in favour of this other group of friends, which I’m thankfully not a part of.

I’ve spoken to some of our other friends who feel like I do – we’re all worried about her – but don’t really know what to do about it.

We can’t look out for her all the time and certainly not when she’s with this group of girls. Have you any advice on how we can help her?

I’ve thought about speaking to her parents, but I know she doesn’t get along with them that well, so that’s held me back.

Coleen says

Firstly, I’m glad you have the strength not to join in with this group of girls. Your friend sounds vulnerable and that’s why she’s fallen in with this crowd so easily, and perhaps it’s because of stuff going on at home.

Maybe the way to approach it is to ask her if things are OK at home and if she’d like to talk, rather than going straight in with a lecture about her drinking (which I’m sure you know is illegal because she’s still underage). Try not to alienate her, so she feels OK about confiding in you.

If that doesn’t work, maybe you and your other friends could meet up with her and tell her you’re worried about her drinking too much and getting into dangerous situations and damaging her health, and emphasise that you’re there to support her.

Maybe if she can feel confident of that support and community you’re offering, she’ll be less inclined to see these other girls.

You don’t say why she doesn’t get on with her parents – is it because they don’t like the way she’s behaving either, or is there another reason?

I’d like to think that my kids’ friends could confide in me if they were worried about my sons or daughter, but I think you’ll have to weigh it up based on your impression of your friend’s parents. They may react badly, or be part of the problem.

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