Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Reader Wants Kids to Help Hurting Neighbor

DEAR HARRIETTE: My neighbor "Mary" lives alone and is in her 50s. She has always kept her garden in pristine condition, but I’ve been noticing her making more comments about feeling achy and not up to the challenge anymore. My son can mow lawns, and I think my daughter would benefit from some time learning from Mary. Should I offer to pay them to help Mary, or should they be doing this out of the goodness of their hearts? -- Teen Motivation, Pikesville, Maryland

DEAR TEEN MOTIVATION: You need to gauge your children’s behavior to decide which approach will be most effective. For some teens, it is understood that you help your elders with whatever you can. This could include doing a bit of yardwork. Other teens can feel resentful that they have to spend their time in this way. You can choose to teach them a lesson about offering from the heart if you believe they will be kind to Mary. But if you believe they may take their anger out on her in any way, prevent that by offering them a small stipend for doing the yardwork. It can be like an allowance based on their hard work and thoughtful effort.

Talk to your teens about how helpful they can be to Mary and how grateful both you and she will be for their help. Encourage them to learn from Mary and observe her so that they can discover how they can be of support. Over time, they may grow to enjoy working in the garden with her. The lessons that will come from simply being together will be invaluable.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a preschool teacher in an inner city. My student "Jayden" told me that his daddy is in jail, so he can’t celebrate Father’s Day this year. I want to create a classroom activity that all students can appreciate, but I’m not sure if it’s possible. Should I continue having everyone make the same card or take the children who don’t have their fathers in their lives aside and have them make an appreciation card for a parental figure? -- Modern Families, Chicago

DEAR MODERN FAMILIES: It is OK to acknowledge Father’s Day in your class. For Jayden, you can tell him privately that he may want to write a card to his father to send to him in prison. Chances are, his father would greatly appreciate receiving a loving communication from his son.

For the class in general, you can suggest that they make Father’s Day cards for their father or for a father figure in their life. It could be a minister, a super, a grocer, an uncle or an older sibling. Whoever it is, suggest that the person who shows them loving kindness and guidance on a regular basis would love receiving a card from them.

Alternatively, in some single-parent households, mothers take on the role of fathers, too. If you have students who say that their mothers really are superheroes in that way, suggest that they make a card for their mother to acknowledge how she does everything.

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