DEAR HARRIETTE: Last night, my 3-year-old nephew asked me to get him a cup of water. When I gave him the cup, he called me Daddy. That was the first time my nephew ever called me Daddy. I was a little puzzled by his response, because my nephew knows who his dad is. I explained to him that I am his uncle. After a few mistakes, my nephew finally called me by my name. I spend a lot of time with my sister's children, and I am the most visible male figure in their lives. How can I ensure the proper boundaries between the children's father and myself? -- Family Man, Queens, N.Y.
DEAR FAMILY MAN: Clearly, your nephew views you in a fatherly role. It is likely that you are more attentive than his father. It is also smart that you addressed it -- especially if his father is a part of his life. You do not want to create any confusion, even if it comes without ill intentions.
Since your nephew is so young, you may want to refer to yourself in the third person for a while. Instead of saying, "I want to take you to the park today," you can say, "Uncle (first name) wants to take you to the park today." Keep up the third-person reference so he can reflect on what you are calling yourself. That should help.
Meanwhile, be aware of the close bond that you have with your nephew, and remind him of the importance of family. Make sure he knows how much you love him and that you will always be his family.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I am thinking about changing my college minor from communications to sports management. I am a little nervous because my college has more classes in communications than in sports management. I told my friends that I am thinking about changing my minor, and they're telling me that I should play it safe and stick with communications because I can make a lot of money in that field. However, my heart is really pulling me toward the sports management program. What should I do? Should I play it safe, or should I follow my heart? -- Student, Chicago
DEAR STUDENT: Your friends cannot live your life for you, so be careful not to give their advice too much weight. Instead, go to your guidance counselor to talk through your career options as they relate to your studies. Review your options carefully so that you are as clear as possible about what you will be able to learn at school to support your interests.
Don't stop with school, though. Internships are key for most people as they develop their career plans. Identify sports management companies in your area that offer internships to students. Find out if you can get college credit in exchange for the experience. If this is your passion, do everything possible to get into the field.