DEAR HARRIETTE: I'm currently separated from my wife, and we have an 11-year-old son. My estranged wife lives in the same school district, and our son splits his time between our two houses.
I have worked hard to get my son on the road to the honor roll. As of late, he has been staying with his mother, and there's been a slip in his school grades. I asked my soon-to-be ex why our son's grades had slipped while he was at her house. Her response was, "I don't stress him about his homework." I almost lost it when I heard her say those words.
I don't want to reduce my son's visits to see his mother, but I am concerned that she does not share the same sense of urgency regarding our son's education. How should I address this matter with her without losing my cool? -- Father Knows Best, Newark, N.J.
DEAR FATHER KNOWS BEST: Ask the guidance counselor at school if he or she can meet jointly with you and your wife to discuss your son's education. Talking with a neutral arbiter may help both of you to hear what your son needs and how you can support him.
Tell the counselor in advance what's happening in your family and ask for guidance in keeping your son on track.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I am 24 years old and live at home with my parents. I'm working and would like to save money, but I would also like my own space and some privacy. My hours are really different from my parents', and I get home while they are sleeping. It's hard to wind down when their room is across from mine. I feel like I'm waking them up.
Our house has a basement that was converted into an apartment, and I asked my father if I could move down there. At first he agreed, saying I could move down there after he finished renovating the bathroom. Soon after the bathroom was done, he changed his mind, stating that he would rather have the space for visitors.
How do I convince my father that I should move into that space? I currently don't pay rent, but I do contribute to the household chores and food budget. -- Longing for Privacy, Brooklyn, N.Y.
DEAR LONGING FOR PRIVACY: Your greatest chance for leverage comes if you treat your living arrangement as a formal relationship.
Start by thanking your father for letting you live in the family home as an adult. Remind him of your schedule and that it can sometimes be awkward for you because you don't want to disturb them. Also point out that you crave a bit of privacy. With that, offer to pay rent for your accommodations. Suggest to your father that you have a one-year lease on the basement for an agreed-upon rent. Offer to continue to contribute to the household. Ask him to try it out.