Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Daughter's Cruel Talk Shocks Mother

DEAR HARRIETTE: I walked in on a conversation that my 9-year-old daughter had with one of her friends. At first, I thought they were just laughing and sharing a moment with each other. That was not the case: The girls were saying some bad things about one of their classmates because she wore the same clothes just about every day of the week. I was disappointed and shocked that these words were coming out of my child's mouth. I did not raise her to judge people by what they wear. I am fortunate enough to have resources to make sure that my children are properly clothed. I think I may need to teach my children a lesson about helping the less fortunate. Do you have any suggestions on how I should approach this matter? -- Mom in Shock, New York City

DEAR MOM IN SHOCK: Consider this a teachable moment. You could have spoken to the two girls at the same time, questioning them about their conversation and its tone. In the spirit of clarification, you could have talked to them about the damaging nature of their conversation.

Since you did not, by all means double back to your daughter. Ask her to tell you what she and her friend were discussing. Prompt her to be forthcoming about her conversation, and gently nudge her toward revealing more about the other student and her circumstances. Next, ask her about her life and the privileges that she receives. Do these things make her "better than" that other girl? Chances are she will not say "yes" because you have been teaching her otherwise. Point out that when you make fun of someone because the person is less fortunate than you, the behavior is cruel. Have your daughter consider how she would feel if someone were speaking about her in that way. Do some role-playing with her so that the impact of the unkind words becomes real to her. Make it crystal clear that you do not condone such behavior. Instead of criticizing, what you would prefer would be to see if you could offer the student clothing or other necessities to help make her life easier.

DEAR HARRIETTE: Your recent column in my local newspaper, "Unemployed Man Who Wants Checkup," provided a link for additional information about health coverage for unemployed workers. The link does not indicate what state will provide information for this man, but I think it is California.

Is there a similar link for me? -- Unemployed in Pennsylvania, Scranton, Pa.

DEAR UNEMPLOYED IN PENNSYLVANIA: As I did research to find a source for health insurance for the unemployed in your state, I found something else that is worthy of note. It turns out that nationally, as a result of sequestration, there have been cuts in unemployment benefits nationwide. Unfortunately, you may already be experiencing this. See this link for more information: www.uc.pa.gov/portal/server.pt/community/the_official_pennsylvania_unemployment_compensation_website_%E2%80%93_www_uc_pa_gov/11449.

As it relates to health insurance support while unemployed, there is hope. Visit pennsylvaniaunemployed.org/benefits.php. You can also call the Department of Public Welfare Helpline at 1-800-692-7462.