Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

High Schooler Shouldn't Have to Pick Sides

DEAR HARRIETTE: My friend's parents went through a really bad divorce when she was little, and their relationship has only continued to get worse. My friend is constantly stuck in the middle, though she made the decision to stay with her dad permanently. Her mother has still not forgiven her for this, and she continues to use my friend's decision as leverage in any fight or argument that arises. Now, for graduation, her mother arranged a trip to London, but deliberately scheduled the departure at the same time as a party that my friend's father had been planning for months. My friend refuses to let her mother interfere with her father's plans, but the argument is causing serious strain on all members of the family. She is really stressed out about this looming decision. For some reason, her mom refuses to reschedule the flight for a more convenient day.

It all comes back to the rivalry that exists between the parents, and my friend, yet again, must choose. She loves her parents both, but one party or the other always ends up angry or upset by her decisions. I wish I had someway to comfort her, but I don't know how she feels. Do you have any suggestions for what I can do to help her out? -- Dazed by Divorce, New Haven, Conn.

DEAR DAZED BY DIVORCE: What you can do is be a sounding board for your friend. Listen to her frustrations. Do your best to bite your tongue. There is no winning in this situation, so do not take sides.

What needs to happen is for the parents to put their child first. For anyone reading who is in a contentious relationship with the other parent of your child(ren), know that you may be doing lifelong harm to your child by not figuring out how to be civil to each other. Your job as parents is to teach your child(ren) how to live honorably, how to handle tough situations, how to make difficult decisions and how to live in the world respecting yourself and others. You fail when you are unable to demonstrate that.

DEAR HARRIETTE: A friend I know is really unhappy with her profession. She is extremely passionate about theater and acting, but she had to put her dreams on the back burner because of student debt and other inconveniences. Unfortunately, a temporary break to put her finances in order ended up consuming her entire life. Now her family's health care plan is dependent on her work, and she has two college tuitions to deal with. The time is not right for her to make a life transition, but I worry that the time will never be right. How can I help her? -- Worried Friend, Miami

DEAR WORRIED FRIEND: There is no reason why your friend cannot get involved in an acting class or a community acting group. She may not find her way onto a Broadway stage, but she can engage her dream while also caring for her family.