02/19/2013 10:41 am ET

Keeping a Secret: Ask Noah

Q: My son is a well-admired and accomplished senior at his high school. Last weekend, he confided in me that his close friend cheated on a final exam in December.

He's obviously protecting his buddy by holding information, which is no doubt making him very uncomfortable. As his father, I'm not used to feeling helpless. I'm really happy he told me, but I honestly don't know what to do about it.

A: In choosing to confide in you, your son is risking his reputation. No teenager wants to be known as a snitch! He obviously needed to express his secret to someone he trusts. His choice to confide in you reflects a belief that you'll respect him enough to listen without taking matters into your own hands.

Start by posing simple questions to him: What does he think should be done? What are his feelings about knowing the rules were broken? How does knowing this information impact how he relates to his friend?

Your son strikes me as the kind of kid who'll decide wisely on how he wants to handle the situation. This may take some time, and part of the process is using you as his trusted soundboard.

Situations like this will come up time and again in his adult life. This is a rare opportunity for him to practice for the "real world" as a teen, and for you to witness it. Make no mistake, telling you about the circumstance was his first choice in the handling of his dilemma.

Your goal in this moment should center on fostering this trusted environment with your son. In the future, as he continues to mature, you'll want to encourage this open-door policy when moral questions or dilemmas become ever more serious.

I'd certainly advise you to thoroughly discuss all of his options in this scenario -- talking to his buddy, telling a teacher or authority figure, asking where he needs your presence. But do not take ownership over his choices or game plan.

Respect his faith in you, and he'll continue to seek out your counsel.

Have a profitable and peaceful week,


Please keep sending all questions and comments to ASK NOAH at

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