By Charis Denison, Prajna Consulting
Daily Dilemma — GoodCharacter.com

The Situation

Chris was just about to finish his sophomore year and felt like his whole world was crashing in around him. His mom was a recovering alcoholic and had been sober for three years—until now.

When Chris was in middle school his mom went through rehab. When she finally came home, Chris’s dad said he would leave her if she ever drank again. Everything seemed okay until his dad took a new job this year and had to travel a lot.

During that last few months, every time Chris’s dad left town his mom would drink. It was on the sly but Chris knew the signs. He saw the thermoses in the bathroom, the “water” bottles in her bedroom. It was like middle school all over again. It was like living in a nightmare.

The hardest part was trying to figure out what he was supposed to do. If he called her out on her drinking, his dad would probably leave all of them. If he didn’t do anything, something bad could happen to his mom. He was mad and hurt and lonely. He had friends he could talk to but what could they do? He felt like there wasn’t a single good choice to make.

What should Chris do?

Notes for the Facilitator

This is a tough one for students to chew on. They might know the dangers of alcoholism as a disease. They probably know this problem is too big for Chris to handle but they have a hard time muddling through the emotions of the case to get to the bottom line. Some situations are not for teenagers to deal with — they are for adults to deal with. No matter the outcome, this is not Chris’s responsibility. He needs to hand this dilemma over to someone else, an adult.

This case is really helpful to bring home the point to students that they can be incredibly mature, very wise, and still it is not their job to take care of their parents or any other adult. It is not their job. I feel like I have to say that sentence over and over and over again, even make my students repeat it out loud. They feel responsible for the people in their life and as teenagers they are beginning to define their own boundaries on how much power they have to affect change. Frequently, they fall under the false impression that they can save the people they care about or that they owe it to the important adults to “protect them”. They need help establishing the boundaries that come with growing responsibility.

Discussion Questions (& Debate Topics, Writing Assignments, etc.)

  • What should Chris do?
  • What should he say to his Mom once something is decided?
  • What would you do in his situation?
  • Have you or someone you know ever faced a situation where he/she had an adult in his/her life that was doing something harmful or wrong?
  • What do you think is the hardest part of Chris’s dilemma?