DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a teenage daughter, and my good friend has a teenage son. She has very different ideas about teens and dating than me. I think that it is natural for teenagers to be attracted to each other. Sometimes that turns into crushes and even dating. When monitored, teenagers going out and getting to know each other, going to events and spending time together seems normal to me. My friend says teens should not be allowed to date until they are over 16. She thinks it is distracting and dangerous.
While I am not naive, I do not think it is practical or wise to try to prevent young people who like each other from being around each other. I do think it is a parent’s responsibility to teach teenagers what they deem to be appropriate behavior. Do they always follow directions? No. But I believe that not allowing them to spend time together could be worse. How do I address this with my friend when we do not share ideals at all? -- At Odds, Dallas
DEAR AT ODDS: You do not have to come to an agreement with your friend over your parenting styles. It can be enlightening to learn about how other parents set boundaries and teach their children about the twists and turns of growing up, including the birds and the bees. Ultimately, though, you must decide what to teach your daughter and how to guide her steps. You can take comfort in being resolute in your approach. If and when you run into challenges, review them based on your values, not someone else’s.
DEAR HARRIETTE: Most of my son’s friends plan on going to private high school. Currently, we all are in a private, or so-called "independent," school together. My husband and I have thought about it long and hard, and we just can’t afford the paid route anymore. We are experiencing tuition fatigue and need to figure out a way to save some money so we can send our son to college when the time comes. He is very disappointed that we are considering public schools only, even though there are some great choices in our city.
How can we get our son to understand that this decision is based on the bigger picture? We want to be able to enjoy family time together, take vacations and not go broke. We can’t have that quality of life and keep paying high tuition. -- Gaining Perspective, Brooklyn, New York
DEAR GAINING PERSPECTIVE: Talking to your son about lifestyle choices can be helpful. First, you can show him the great options in high-quality public high schools. Second, you can explain what you can do as a family with some extra available cash. You also need to talk to him about being clear that every family is different. What one family can afford and chooses to do is quite different from the next. Your measuring stick should be in your own home rather than comparing yourself to your friends. This is hard to accept, but it is a necessary part of life. Show him your vision, and then help to make it manifest.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)