Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

DEAR HARRIETTE: My 13-year-old daughter is at sleepaway camp. She seems to be having a wonderful time. We speak to her once a week, and the reports are always great. This is her fourth year at the camp, which also helps us to feel at ease. That is, until we got a message that one of the campers had tried to hurt herself the other day. The message was vague, though we were told that our daughter was fine and the camp has talked to all of the girls in the affected group. I spoke to my daughter, who is fine.

When I told a friend, however, she was irate. She thought I should pull my daughter from the camp immediately because it is unsafe. She also hated that the kids don’t have their phones and thought the whole scene is unsafe. Now I’m torn. My daughter is strong and clear. I believe she is safe. My friend has put doubts in my mind. What should I do? -- Camp Mom, Syracuse, New York

DEAR CAMP MOM: Trust your instincts, your child's words and the administration of the camp. Contact camp officials to find out what’s going on now and what safety measures they have put in place to protect the campers. Stay in close touch so that you can feel confident that the situation is being handled to your satisfaction. If you ever feel that your daughter is unsafe, absolutely go get her immediately.

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Health & Safety | Teens

Reader Needs to Set Boundaries With Client

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am an independent contractor. I have been building my business for a few years now. I currently have a client who has erratic behavior. Sometimes she is clear in her communication about what she wants me to do. Other times, she seems extremely high-strung and angry. When she is in that mood, everything I say or do is all wrong. I feel like I am working for two different people, and it’s hard to function professionally. I want to keep this contract, as I like the work and it’s fairly consistent. But it is hard for me work for someone who is unclear and seemingly emotionally unstable. What can I do to get this relationship to be more professional? -- Calm Down, Toledo, Ohio

DEAR CALM DOWN: When dealing with a difficult client, one of the most effective things you can do is to write everything down and get sign-offs of your work. With your client’s signature in hand, you may be able to show her what you agreed to do and remind her that she agreed to it to help calm her. Sometimes, though, it’s best to let a person rant and say nothing. Let the person release his or her emotions. Later, when things are calm again, double back and review how you are planning to proceed with the work at hand. Don’t address the outburst. Instead, stay the course based upon your written agreement. You may find that your volatile client settles back into the original plan more often than not if you do not react to her hysterics but wait instead for a quieter moment to engage.

(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: Etiquette & Ethics | Work & School