DEAR HARRIETTE: I went out to the West Coast for work. I hadn't been there in such a long time that I forgot to contact some of my friends who live out there. I was there for only two days and had to make work the priority, but still I feel bad. Two of my closest friends from childhood live out there, and I didn't even call them. They heard I was there, because one friend I did call met me and we had dinner together. So now the others' feelings are hurt.
How can I fix this? The last thing I was trying to do is hurt their feelings. -- Need to Make Up, Washington, D.C.
DEAR NEED TO MAKE UP: Call your friends and express your sadness that you didn't get a chance to see them. Let them vent, if they choose to do so, because you know they miss you. Make it clear that you realize you could have handled your trip differently and that you are sorry you didn't plan to get together with them.
Do your best to stay in touch using modern technology. Talk about when you may be in one another's towns and can try again to get together.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My friend's niece just got arrested for shoplifting. He is so upset about it, and I don't know how to help him.
She has been misbehaving for a long time. She is 15 years old and is always doing crazy things, like staying out all night, smoking drugs and not going to school. She was always kind of bad, but after her grandmother died, she got a lot worse.
What can I do to help him? He keeps asking me for advice. -- Worried, New Orleans, La.
DEAR WORRIED: The best thing this family can do for their troubled teen is to get her mental health support. She should visit a counselor with whom she can talk about her life, the loss of her grandmother and her choices. She needs to have a safe space to be able to talk about what's happening in her life and learn that it's possible for her to decide her fate.
Some parents in these situations also choose to send their children to schools for so-called delinquent teens, where they are immersed in learning discipline. Other families have used the military as a tool to help teach their teens right from wrong. Sometimes the structure is particularly helpful for young people who have behaved recklessly over time.
Most important is for your friend's niece to be able to grieve and heal. She needs to know that she is loved, even though her behavior is unacceptable. Your friend also needs to know that the adults in his family probably cannot handle her challenges on their own. They, too, should seek professional help.