Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

How Often Should a Grown Child Phone Home?

DEAR HARRIETTE: My best friend talks to her mother and siblings on the phone once a day, if not more. She lives in a different town from them.

I also live in a different town from my mom. I talk to her, but definitely not every day -- more like once a week. Sometimes even more time passes. I don't think I am neglecting my mom, but my friend keeps telling me that I don't call her enough. My take is that we are different, and our families have different expectations. But my friend talks about it so much that I am beginning to feel guilty. What do you think? -- Not So Chatty, Seattle

DEAR NOT SO CHATTY: As you said, you and your friend are different people with different families and, likely, different expectations.

That said, your friend could have a point. It could be true that your mother misses you or needs to hear your voice.

Why don't you check in with your mother to see how she feels? Call and ask how she's doing. Make sure she is in a positive frame of mind. Then tell her about your best friend's comment and ask for her opinion. She may welcome more frequent calls or be perfectly comfortable with your current rhythm.

Personally speaking, I have two sisters who typically talk to my mother more than I do. In recent years, though, I have started calling my mother more often, and she has thanked me for being in closer touch. I have been much more attentive than I was in the past.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My aunt has asked me to help her go back to college. She is 60 years old, and she is planning to get an associate's degree in nursing.

I'm happy to help my aunt, but here's my dilemma: I need to find the time to walk her through the application process in person rather than over the phone. I recently went back to college, and my free time is limited. How can I best help my aunt? -- Lending a Hand, Memphis, Tenn.

DEAR LENDING A HAND: Ask your aunt what her deadline is for completing her application. Review your schedule to see when you have an hour or more of free time before the deadline. Schedule a face-to-face meeting with your aunt, and let her know in advance that you want the two of you to concentrate on getting the application completed at that meeting.

You may have inspired your aunt to go back to college. Continue to encourage her. Let her know how rigorous you are finding the process to be. She will need to step into the academic rhythm in order for it to work for her.