For over ten years, we have lived next door to our wonderful neighbors.
We’re great friends with the parents and we have been blessed to watch their two kids grow up. We count all four of them as family. Their children, now teenagers, are good kids and good students.
Over a year ago, we noticed that one of the teens had started vaping. We strongly suspect that the parents are unaware.
Our houses are close enough that we can see this young person vaping most evenings after dinner in one of the rooms upstairs (while leaving the shade open).
We know what smoking can lead to and we know that today’s flavored vaping products are designed to attract kids. We also know that both parents are both 100 percent against smoking.
We’re torn as to whether we should tell the parents about this, thereby ratting on this young person (who trusts and respects us), or, should we ask this kid to pull the shade down every night (in which case the kid will know we know what’s going on), which might inspire him to quit.
What do you think we should do?
I commend you on being so concerned with the welfare of your neighbors.
You are correct – vaping at his age can definitely lead to bigger problems – health, habit, or otherwise. It may not be his intention, but he may be on what is called a slippery slope for a variety of reasons beyond his control, even if he is a good kid.
Usually, speaking to someone about what someone else is doing wrong is classic lashon hara. However, in this case your clear intention is one of to’elet – to ultimately benefit the boy. So, it would seem to be permissible.
But there is a big IF.
IF he is already doing things behind his parents’ backs, chances are by speaking to them about this you would only make matters worse between them, especially if they have already objected.
My recommendation, therefore, is not to speak to the parents and not to tell him to pull down the shade. Rather, you should befriend him. Since you’ve been neighbors for so long, find an opportunity to speak to him alone and let him know how much you care about him. Be prepared with all of the statistics he is going to throw back at you that show how nothing bad is going to happen. Assure him this is not about facts and figures – it’s about trying to help someone you care about.
Who knows, he just might be needing someone to talk to and you just might have that shoulder he’s been looking to cry on for over a year.