DEAR AMY: The teenage son of our neighbors is a sweet boy, involved in school sports and neighborhood activities. In the past several months, he seems to be sneaking in and out of his house to meet friends who wait for him in various cars parked in our cul-de-sac. We are concerned because of the behavior of the boy's friends. We are also uncomfortable that these strangers park for long periods outside our house, waiting for him. We have hoped to talk with him but have not had the opportunity, and my husband thinks we should let the boy's father know about this. I am worried this might cause problems for the boy and also that the neighbors might direct some sort of negative response at us. But if the boy has become involved in something that may be harmful to him, we would feel terrible for watching it happen and doing nothing to intervene. What would you recommend?

-- Worried Neighbors

DEAR WORRIED: Let's run a scenario: You look out your window and notice a car with occupants in front of your house for long periods. Why are they there? If cars full of people are parking in front of your house regularly and you don't know why, you might be justified in calling the police -- this is a judgment call on your part.

If you suspect that contacting your adult neighbors would cause them to harm their son, don't tell them. This is completely contingent on your relationship with them and your assessment of their behavior as parents. And if you are so aware of this nighttime wandering, then why aren't they? I do believe you should reach out to the boy (perhaps the next time you see him sneaking out). Tell him the truth -- "We see you out at night and are very concerned about you. Are you OK?" If this boy's home life is terrible, sneaking out may be his saving grace.


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