Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Reader Worried About Son Spending Time With Cousins

DEAR HARRIETTE: My immediate family and I spent Thanksgiving with our extended family, as we always do. This year, my teenage son was spending time with his older cousins, and they hung out at stores participating in Black Friday sales until very late at night. I was nervous about this, as one of the older cousins has found himself in trouble over the years.

I couldn’t sleep until my son got home. I asked about all that they did, but I didn’t get much information. It seems like all went well, but I’m worried about how to protect my son but also allow him to spend time with his cousins. I know they love each other, and I want them to be close. I do not want my son to pick up any of their bad habits, though. -- SOS, Miami

DEAR SOS: You have to get clear on what you are willing to allow your son to do and where you have to draw the line. Safety is essential, of course, but, as you said, you also want to create an environment where your son gets to know his family. Your job is to teach your son and remind him of your values. Be open with him about the kinds of challenges that many young people face, especially regarding peer pressure -- especially when it involves family. Tell your son he should pay attention to what people say and do, including his cousins. Point out clues that may suggest that a group may be making a bad decision. This includes underage drinking, drug use, shoplifting and even being too forward with young ladies.

Teach your son to always have enough money to get home when he is out and about with others. He should be able to walk away from a potentially dangerous situation before it escalates if he has the ability either to drive away or call for help.

If you think it’s important, tell him what his cousin has done in the past so that he does not idolize this person. Make it clear that you aren’t trying to malign the cousin’s name, but you want your son’s eyes to be wide open.

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Health & Safety | Holidays & Celebrations

Reader Wants Mom to Stay in Contact

DEAR HARRIETTE: My mother recently turned 80 years old. She is a spry woman with a lot of vitality, and she sometimes acts like she is 15 years younger than she is. I like that on one level. What I don’t like is that she doesn’t feel like she has to check in with me or my brother when she is out and about. Never mind she taught us to always call her if we take a trip to let her know we got there safely. I don’t mean just when we were kids. She expects us to stay in touch with her, but she seems to resent us wanting the same from her. How can we impress upon her the importance of staying connected without pointing out the obvious, her advanced age? -- Looking out for Mama, Detroit

DEAR LOOKING OUT FOR MAMA: Give your mother a taste of her own medicine. Remind her of her expectations for you. Tell her you want the same in return. You are all concerned about each other’s well-being. Point out how grateful you are that she is youthful and independent. Ask her to share her whereabouts so that you all stay in the loop. Consider signing up to the app Life360, which uses GPS to track each other.

(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.)

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Health & Safety