Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Teenage Sons Skipping School, Getting Bad Grades

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am the mother of two boys, ages 17 and 13, and I am afraid that my younger son is following in his older brother’s footsteps. My eldest started to rebel in school and at home about a year ago. It began with him not doing his homework and being late for school, and now he skips class entirely. I recently found out that he has been taking drugs and hangs out on the bad side of town. I decided to send him to my sister’s over summer break to see if getting out of the city will help.

Yesterday, my younger son came home hiding his report card. Once he gave it to me, I saw that he has been absent from a lot of his classes and is receiving much lower grades than usual. I’m scared that this is the start of a downward spiral, similar to what his older brother went through. What do you think I should do? -- Mother of Teenage Rebels, Dallas

DEAR MOTHER OF TEENAGE REBELS: Call a family meeting and ask your boys what is going on. Tell them what you have observed and what your specific concerns are. Outline what happens to people who fall into bad behavior and poor study habits. You can look up stats if you want to scare them all the way. Remind them of the dreams you had for them as children and what it takes to make those dreams come true. Ask them why they have been delinquent at school.

Talk to the teachers and school administration to find out everything you can about your boys. Your job is to inspire them to take positive steps in their lives. Figure out things for them to do that occupy their time. This could include the Boys and Girls Club, Boy Scouts, church groups or other organized group activities. Don’t give up!

DEAR HARRIETTE: After graduating from high school, I lived by myself in apartments for 25 years, and I was fine being alone in my 20s and 30s. My mother died 15 years ago, and it was just my stepdad and me. I have now come to the scary realization that if my stepdad should pass before me, I will be all alone. I was never close to my mom’s family, so my stepdad is my only family.

With the realization of having no family when he’s gone and being alone in a house or apartment, I have been having panic attacks and sleeping poorly. I have tried reading inspirational books to help me, but it’s just so overwhelming to me to think about it. If I could go back in time, I would have saved money to move to a bigger city and gotten more involved in things. What can I do to make myself feel better? -- Having Panic Attacks, Frederick, Maryland

DEAR HAVING PANIC ATTACKS: Rather than panicking, it is time for you to start building your independent life. What are your hobbies? Start going to public events that pique your interest. Participate in community activities. Consider getting support from a therapist to help you face your future.

(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.)