There are rules and then there are RULES. How do you know when you are in really serious trouble? The kind that will not go away quickly? The kind that will make going on blind dates or eating offal seem like a pleasure in comparison?
All the lights are on and everybody's at home. You were supposed to be back at midnight and it is now 2 a.m. You hoped to sneak in undetected, but every light in the house is on and your parents have been phoning police stations and hospital trauma wards for the last two hours.
The pregnancy test is positive. If it's your own, you're in big trouble and if you are responsible for someone else's positive pregnancy test, you can be sure the immediate road ahead is going to be rocky indeed. Best you get to a counsellor asap, who can advise you about your choices in this matter.
You've dinged your father's car. Whether you had permission to use it or not ( more often not, is my guess) you are in big, big trouble. Whether it was your fault or not. Prepare for months of casual labour to foot the repair bill and for years of reprimands and reminders. Maybe your father should stick to Erma Bombeck's advice: "Never lend your car to anyone to whom you have given birth."
The police are waiting at the front door. Whatever it is, it is probably not good news. Either someone in the family has had an accident, or they found your dagga stash in the gym locker. You are in serious trouble.
Your girlfriend's parents are coming around. This could be a mere social call, but don't be too sure. Maybe they feel you are leading their daughter astray, or that you are unsuitable for her, or that you are not treating her well enough. Point is, they're unlikely to be coming to tell your parents how wonderful you are. For that, they would have invited you all to their house.
You get called to the principal's office. For the rest of your life you will remember what this feels like. And it's not good. Even worse if you walk in and your parents are also sitting there. Then you are really in trouble. You may have to start looking for another school.
Your mom has cleaned out your room. Now if you are a model child with nothing to hide, this should be no problem at all. But if you have one or two rather less than above board magazines hidden away or you have forgotten about the half-smoked joint your cousin left in your room three months ago, you could be in for the serious high jump.
Your friends aren't taking your calls. If you've stepped out of line severely and your friends are all angry with you, they will be trying to avoid you. And not answering your calls is one way in which is done. If you've offended them, it may be a good idea to take a look at what you've done and try and set it right, if possible. Unless you fancy spending the rest of your schooldays friendless.
You get caught bunking. This one lands you in trouble at school and at home. You were supposed to be in the care of your teacher and you hit the road. And got caught out. You may have some serious explaining to do – and a mere apology will not be enough.
You studied for History, but the exam paper is Biology. Never again in your life will you have such an adrenalin shock. Except perhaps if you fall into the crocodile enclosure at the zoo. This is one of the worst feelings there is. And there is nothing you can do about it. Except try your best. Sometimes you will be pleasantly surprised at how much you can remember from what was said in class.
So how do you make things better?
Apologise, over and over, if necessary. But mostly this is not enough. Offer to pay for damages, promise never to do it again (and mean it), accept it if your parents want you to speak to a professional counsellor or go into rehab or whatever. After all, they are paying for the roof over your head and until such time you are able to support yourself, you will have to fall in with their wishes.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated June 2010)