Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

School Shootings Cause Fear in Children and Adults Alike

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have two children in elementary school. Once again, there has been a recent shooting at a school. These things make huge news stories, as they should, but as a result, my children know about them. I feel powerless to protect them from such random acts of violence. Each time we hear about precious children being shot and sometimes killed, it is paralyzing. What do I say to my children? They are afraid to go to school now. -- Afraid, Shreveport, La.

DEAR AFRAID: It is scary and incredibly sad that our country continues to be plagued by sick individuals who choose to harm innocent children. You and your children naturally should be concerned about this recurring situation.

What you can do is talk to your children's principal to learn about what safety precautions have been put in place at their school to assure the highest level of safety. Get involved in the PTA and learn what parents can do to support the school and the children. Learn the rules in case of an emergency, and talk to your children about paying attention so that they can implement them.

Talk to them about the sad fact that some people in this world are up to no good and they have to be mindful of any students or others who are mean or who behave as bullies. When they notice something that is off, they should tell the teacher right away. By educating your children about how they can be as safe as possible, you create more space for them to experience ease.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I got a call out of the blue from a woman who was my friend when I was growing up. We haven't been in touch for more than 30 years. At first, I wasn't even sure who she was. She found my number from a woman I have kept in touch with from home and called. It was pleasant to hear from her. She said she was coming to New York soon and wants to get together. I thought that was fine. But then she added that she hoped she could stay with me for a couple of days. I was taken aback. How could this be possible? I hardly even know her. I do know that people like to stay with others when they visit the Big Apple because it is expensive here, but we are not friends. What should I say to her? I am willing to get together, but not to be a hotel. -- Mouth Hanging Open, Bronx, N.Y.

DEAR MOUTH HANGING OPEN: Be direct with this woman. Tell her that you would be happy to see her while she is in town. You may also want to recommend sites for her to visit, your favorite restaurants and other highlights. Draw the line about spending the night. You don't need to go into an explanation. Simply say that you are sorry, but you cannot accommodate that request.