Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: My fourth-grader is learning a lot about the history of our country, and this month the curriculum has been focused on segregation and the Jim Crow South. As he brings home the stories they are learning, I am happy to know that the school is taking this part of his education seriously. But I also have been upset by some of the stories of racial discrimination in our nation.

It's not that I didn't know about this stuff, but I hate that my child has to be exposed to some of these awful parts of our past at such a young age. How can I talk about this topic with my son without getting upset? -- Unsettled Mom, Ann Arbor, Mich.

DEAR UNSETTLED MOM: I do not think you should try to cover up your emotional reaction to the material your son is learning. Part of our history is painful, especially as it relates to discrimination.

Do not diminish the horror of the stories that your son is bringing home. Instead, let him recount to you what he has learned. If you are not fully up to speed on the stories, do research with him to learn more.

Ask your son to share his feelings about the information he is learning in class. Tell him how it makes you feel. Be as honest as you can. If you have personal stories that reflect discrimination, share one or two that will give your son insight into what you or your family have endured.

You also can ask his teacher for support. The teacher may have materials you can read or advice on how to address some of the topics that are coming up in regard to this curriculum.

Bottom line: This discussion is a great thing. To know our history is to be empowered. Be sure your son understands that.

DEAR HARRIETTE: How much is too much money to spend on a first date? I'm a college student, and I want to ask out my crush. I want to take her to a fancy restaurant and buy her a bouquet of roses, which I think is romantic. But my friend says that would be too expensive for a first date.

What do you think? Is there an appropriate amount of money to spend on a first date? -- Eager to Impress, Gallup, N.M.

DEAR EAGER TO IMPRESS: There is no set limit on how much to spend on a first date, other than that you should not break your bank. Rather than attempting to spend as much as you possibly can, though, get creative.

What do you like about this woman? What do you know about her preferences? Rather than selecting a fancy restaurant, pick one off the beaten path that reflects her personality.

Roses are nice, but is there another flower that better represents her personality? The more specific your choices are, the more successful you will likely be at wowing your crush.