DEAR HARRIETTE: I have two "tween-age" children who have noticed the news stories about sex abuse at Penn State. Even though I try to shield them from certain things, this has flooded the news. Now they are asking me a lot of questions. I'm not sure how to explain this egregious behavior. What should I tell them about the offenses and how to protect themselves? -- Worried Sick, Syracuse, N.Y.
DEAR WORRIED SICK: This is a horrible story that continues to play out on the national stage. But I think the crimes give us an opportunity to talk to our children and better protect them from predators.
Start by asking your children what they have heard about this situation and what their thoughts are. Ask if they understand the crimes that were committed. Listen to them to learn how complete their understanding is.
Tell them that in this situation, a man whom these young people trusted violated their bodies. Remind them of the sacredness of their bodies and of how important it is to walk away from anyone who may want to violate them in any way. Be specific with your children about what other people can and cannot do to them; emphasize that no one should be touching their private parts.
Because they are tweens, they may have entered the stage where they are aware of themselves as sexual beings. Talk to them about their feelings and their developing bodies.
DEAR HARRIETTE: All of my son's friends have taken big vacations this summer. I am a single mom, and with my work hours getting cut, I haven't had enough money this year to take a trip. Even though summer is almost over, I want to do something special for my son. I know that when he goes back to school, he will appreciate being able to say something about his summer. What can I do that isn't expensive? -- Need a Vacation, Washington, D.C.
DEAR NEED A VACATION: You live in a city that is visited by tourists from all over the world. What's often true, though, is that people who live in such destination cities do not visit the tourist attractions.
Why don't you and your son become tourists and explore Washington, D.C., for a few days? Ask your son to help you select places to visit, such as the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial, the U.S. Capitol, the White House and the museums that interest you. You will have to schedule tours for some of these national treasures, but there's a good chance that you can get in before summer is over. Many tour companies sell bus-tour packages and other prearranged experiences. I looked online and found dozens of options.
Take a camera and a journal and make it an adventure!