Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Reader Wants Son to Be Nicer to Classmate

DEAR HARRIETTE: One of my son’s classmates has epilepsy. She has had it for years, often having seizures at school. The kids try to be nice to her, but over the years, it has gotten tough. She is often rude and annoying to them. Now that they are teens, they are less patient than they used to be. I’m sure the students are unkind to this girl. I have witnessed them ignore her repeatedly. And my son says that she has no friends in the school.

I’m wondering if there is anything I can do to get my son and his friends to be nicer to their classmate. I know they will say she doesn’t deserve it, but her mother has told me that the girl’s illness affects her brain and sometimes leads her to behave rudely. I don’t want my son to be mean to this girl, but I also don’t want him to suffer abuse from someone even if she has an illness. How can I direct his behavior? -- Navigating Friendship, Raleigh, North Carolina

DEAR NAVIGATING FRIENDSHIP: Remind your son of the importance of treating everyone with respect. Add that having compassion for people who live with challenges is a sign of character. Even when it is tough to show kindness, it is worth it. Talk to your son about boundaries. If this student crosses physical lines, he should immediately tell her to back off. If she speaks in rude or insulting ways, he should stand up for himself and say, “Please do not speak to me like that.” When she is “annoying,” he can ask her to stop whatever she is doing. Only after repeated offenses should he totally ignore her.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

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