Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: My 11-year-old son had a falling-out with one of his classmates last year just as the school year ended. My husband and I decided to have him walk away from the conflict because it was the end of the year and we thought with cooler heads the tension might dissipate.

Now the summer is over, and school is about to start. My son hasn't brought up the incident at all, but I am a little concerned that the other kid may want to stir the pot again. How can I protect my son without making a problem where there may be none? -- Protective Mom, Brooklyn, N.Y.

DEAR PROTECTIVE MOM: Do not bring up the incident. Instead, you can talk to your son about the year and ask him about his plans for success. Talk about what he will be learning. Ask him to describe to you what he looks forward to this year and if there is anything that makes him uncomfortable.

If he is thinking about the incident, he may bring it up; if he does, you can talk about it then. Let him know that it is possible to forgive and move on, even from hurtful incidents. Remind him, too, that the principal, guidance counselor and you are at the ready to support him as needed.

As a parent, you want to prepare your child to negotiate challenging situations. In this case, it is probably best not to focus on a potential negative. Instead, look at the big picture and envision the school year as he would like it. Remind him that not every child shares his vision. When he encounters another student who causes friction, your son can alter his course, respond calmly to the student or seek help, depending upon how the situation escalates.

DEAR HARRIETTE: The best part about this summer is that my family and I were invited to spend the weekend with several friends who have lovely summer homes. We had such a nice time visiting with them. We brought little gifts whenever we visited, and I sent email thank-you notes. (These friends and I communicate mostly via email.) Somehow, though, I feel like I want to do something more. We had a perfect summer, and I want them to know how special they made it for us. Any ideas? -- Grateful, Detroit

DEAR GRATEFUL: It is wonderful that you had such a great time and even better that you want to punctuate your gratitude. Did you take pictures? If you did, you could collect a few shots that document your fun summer and share them with your friends. You could do this individually so that shots featuring only one family at a time are in a collection. Or you can make a photomontage that incorporates the breadth of your fun and send a photo album to everyone with a note expressing your delight about the summer.

Shy of photos, you can send a heartfelt handwritten note via snail mail that reiterates how much you loved spending time with them and wishing them a happy fall.