Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Therapist Recommends Speaking to Wild Child's Parents

DEAR HARRIETTE: I just read the letter from a person whose sleep is constantly disturbed by a rambunctious child in the apartment upstairs. You cautioned the writer not to suggest to the parents that the child be checked for developmental delays or other conditions. I am a speech-language pathologist who has worked with children of all ages with autism, ADHD and myriad other conditions that would produce the kind of behavior described in the letter. As a professional, I need to emphasize that the earlier a child gets attention for these kinds of issues, the more likely the child is to be able to learn to manage -- or even sometimes overcome -- their problems. It might not be comfortable for the parents, but it also might open them up to seeking appropriate help, which should be free from their school district if the child is of preschool age. Or the writer might get a brief but effective explanation of what is going on.

Also, if the child’s behavior is due only to parents ignoring the behavior, that is a form of neglect. If I were in that child’s state, I would be obligated as a professional to notify child protective services. Bottom line: Refraining from bringing up a problem like this can condemn a child to a lifetime of even bigger problems. Please, talk to the parents! More than a good night’s sleep is at stake! -- Speechie, Kenai, Alaska

DEAR SPEECHIE: Thank you for this note that reveals so much about what could be going on with that child. I appreciate you qualifying what medical or safety concerns there may be. I will add that bringing up such sensitive matters to parents who may be flustered by their child’s erratic behavior requires sensitivity and kindness in order to get them to listen.

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Etiquette & Ethics | Friends & Neighbors

Husband Doesn't Want to Celebrate Holidays

DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband doesn’t care about holiday gifts and feels that it’s a racket that we all get gifts for each other every year. I agree that we shouldn’t go crazy with spending, but I grew up in a home where the holidays were important and gifts were a key part of that. We have young children, and I think it’s important to give them a few gifts under the tree. It’s always a battle with my husband. How can I get him to participate more actively with this moment of connection in our family? -- Scrooge, Arlington, Virginia

DEAR SCROOGE: Bring some depth to the moment. Perhaps that will help your husband. In my family, my 89-year-old mother leads us in prayer before anyone can open a present. She reminds us of the bounty of blessings in our lives and asks us to remember those who may have less than we do. This helps to give context to the moment.

Another thing my family does that you may want to consider is to adopt a family from my sister’s church and provide resources for them to have a healthy meal and gifts -- both practical and fun -- for the children. Your husband may appreciate the idea of supporting those in need at a time when some are enjoying excesses.

(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: Holidays & Celebrations | Money | Family & Parenting