Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Grad's Family Is Full of Party Poopers

DEAR HARRIETTE: I'm a 23-year-old woman graduating with my MBA this May. I've paid my way through college and grad school with no assistance. As a graduation present to myself, I'm having a party. I'm financing this party all by myself. Since this is a major accomplishment, I wish my family would ask or offer to help me plan, buy decorations or even if there's anything I need.

I feel they don't care, and whenever I speak with my mom about my party, she never seems interested. When I speak with my grandmother about the party, her response is, "I don't care what you do, just don't have it here!" Not having family support makes me upset, and I'd think they'd want to do all they can to help me celebrate a joyous occasion. Harriette, how do I let my family know my feelings without sounding childish? -- Longing for Family, Chicago

DEAR LONGING FOR FAMILY: For whatever your reasons, you have made your vision for your future come true independently. Given that your family has not been involved leading up to now, it is no surprise that they are not invested at celebration time.

You need to lower your expectations. You may also want to take a different approach. There is a chance that your family feels like you do not need them since you have done it all on your own. If they are not as highly educated as you, that could also be a source of strain for some. Yes, you would hope that they would be proud of your accomplishments -- and they may be. They just may not know how to engage you about it. Instead of looking for enthusiasm, plant some enthusiastic seeds. Ask your mother if she would like to help you decorate. Ask your grandmother if she would like to invite any of her friends. Ask things in bite-size nuggets, small enough that they can feel comfortable responding without feeling overwhelmed. Coax them into being a part of your celebration. Some of them may come around. Be sure to keep your good friends close, though, so that you have emotional support when you need it.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a terrible habit of not checking my voice mail messages. I went to the ATM in an attempt to withdraw money out of my account. To my surprise, my account was frozen due to fraudulent activity. The bank left several messages on my phone a few days ago, and I could have had this matter solved had I checked my voice mail. Can you help me break this habit? -- One New Message, Jackson, Miss.

DEAR ONE NEW MESSAGE: Do you really need another bad experience in order to pay closer attention to checking your voice mail? Having your bank account frozen should be enough.

What you need to do is develop a ritual. Check your voice mail in the morning and in the evening. Write it down or put an alarm reminder in your phone, if you have a smartphone.