DEAR HARRIETTE: I just got into a huge argument with my father-in-law about the presidential election. We are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, which is fine by me. But he refuses to have a reasonable conversation about any of the topics that have been coming up in the news. If his candidate says something, it's true in his mind, no matter what. I don't necessarily feel that way. I want to talk about the issues, and I want to understand his side.
How can I make it clear that I want to have a lively debate with him rather than a contentious argument? -- Political, Washington, D.C.
DEAR POLITICAL: It is good to have healthy discussions about something as important as the presidential election. I wish more Americans would pay attention to the political issues that are being discussed and be willing to share their informed views.
The reality, however, is that even for people who are paying attention, it can be difficult to have productive conversations with others who have different views. Just watch the pundits and politicians on TV. They stick to the party line, often regardless of what is being said or asked of them.
There is a small chance that your father-in-law may soften and discuss politics with you, but don't count on it. If you go back to him and get only fury rather than a volley of ideas, stop. You may want to find others who are willing to talk with you and debate views.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My neighbor's daughter just got her period, and she's only 9 years old. Everybody in her family was shocked, and so were we. We have an 8-year-old daughter who doesn't even know what a period is.
My husband suggested that we not let our daughter hang out with the neighbor girl anymore, because he doesn't want our daughter to lose her innocence yet. His idea was that if the two of them aren't around each other, our daughter doesn't have to deal with this grown-up subject.
I disagree. I think the little girl would be devastated to be abandoned by her friend immediately after this dramatic shift occurred in her body. Also, I think this is a time to introduce the subject to our daughter and explain it to her.
I don't want to go against my husband. How should I handle this? -- Maturing Too Fast, Chicago
DEAR MATURING TOO FAST: I agree that you don't want to abandon your neighbor at such a pivotal time. Also, you cannot shield your daughter from the realities of growing up, no matter how hard you try.
Suggest to your husband that you teach your daughter about the changes that naturally occur in a girl's body instead of having her learn from another source.
Contact your pediatrician and ask for suggestions on how to address this topic. This may include taking your daughter for a regular visit and having the doctor assist you in talking about how the body grows and transforms.