DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been talking to my parents recently about going abroad for a semester. My school offers a program where you can take classes toward your degree in a different country, and I think it would be a great experience for me. My dad is on board with this idea because he went abroad and said it was one of the greatest experiences of his life. My mother, on the other hand, is apprehensive about the idea of me going to a foreign country for four months. I want her blessing before I go, but she is very stubborn when it comes to this. How do you think I should handle this situation with my mother? I want to convince her that I will be OK going abroad and that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. -- Persuasive Daughter, Boston
DEAR PERSUASIVE DAUGHTER: Do you have an ally at school who knows more about the program? Perhaps a guidance counselor or the professor who is organizing this program can talk to your parents about the experience, how long it has been in existence, what kinds of precautions are in place to protect the students, what guidelines they must follow, etc. This may not allay all her fears, but information is power and can help your mother to feel more at ease if she knows that the school isn’t just dropping you off in a foreign country and leaving you to your own devices.
You should also think about your own behavior. What can you tell your mother about how you comport yourself that may help her to believe that you will be responsible and cautious while abroad?
DEAR HARRIETTE: I am 18 years old. My parents have recently started talking about stopping paying my cellphone bill. They think that since I am 18, I should be paying for my own service. I don’t understand their thinking; I do not have a steady income to pay my bill. Their approach to this is that I should be taking on some responsibility, but I don’t see how this will teach me. I feel like the only thing it will teach me is to use less data and make fewer calls. Do you think it’s normal for someone my age to pay their own cellphone bill? Is there an average age where parents stop paying for their children’s bills? -- Struggling Teenager, Jackson, Mississippi
DEAR STRUGGLING TEENAGER: There are plenty of teenagers who do not have cellphones at all. So you should step back from your thoughts about unfairness. Instead, get creative. How can you earn money? Can you do anything around your house that your parents would be willing to pay for? Adding chores to your list of things to do might inspire them either to pay you or to defray the cellphone cost.
Look in your neighborhood. Can you cut grass? Baby-sit? Tutor younger kids? Is there a local coffee shop or retail store that needs help? Your parents are letting you know that you need to find a part-time job. Stop complaining and find one. You will probably love the independence and cash you get as a result.
(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.)