Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Girlfriend's Graduation Trumps Family Dynamics

DEAR HARRIETTE: My girlfriend and I have been dating for a while now. Even though we have been together for years, I do not have a great relationship with her parents -- we don't have issues with one another, but we've never had a connection that flowed.

My girlfriend's college graduation is approaching, and I am nervous to attend due to the amount of time I would have to spend with her family. Do you have any advice on how I can survive the weekend with her not-so-welcoming parents? -- Surviving the Parents, New Haven, Connecticut

DEAR SURVIVING THE PARENTS: Keep your eyes on the prize: your girlfriend’s graduation. Remember that everyone is there to celebrate her. Get her parents talking when you are around them by asking them questions about what your girlfriend was like growing up or what they remember about her as a student and as a child. Whenever you are together, ask them to travel down memory lane. This will keep them in a positive state of mind and may distract them from whatever negative feelings they have about you. Stay positive, and remember that they are responsible for your girlfriend’s life. Be grateful for that, even if they are difficult.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a junior in high school. My of my peers have started studying and taking the SAT and ACT exams. Most of my friends have already had numerous tutoring sessions, taken practice exams and attended prep classes. My parents did not attend college in the United States, so they are unaware of these standardized exams. I have been trying to explain to them that SAT and ACT preparation is not something we learn in school; therefore, I cannot seek help from teachers.

I want to join my friends in an SAT prep class, but my parents are hesitant to pay for it. How do I get my point across to them that I need some extra help when studying for these exams? -- Parents Hesitant to Help with SATs, Portland, Oregon

DEAR PARENTS HESITANT TO HELP WITH SATS: Your job is to educate your parents, just as you are being educated. Do some research on the positive effects of being tutored specifically for these standardized tests. By showing your parents the value of this coaching, you create space for them to support you.

Your parents came as far as bringing you to the U.S. for your higher education. You have to carry the baton the rest of the way. Your argument cannot be that all your friends are doing it. Instead, you can share facts you've researched about what scores are required for the colleges of your choice, what type of tester you tend to be, and the advantage that you believe taking such a course will give you.

Also, look into the cost of these test-prep courses. You can ask your teachers for guidance. Not all of the packages have the same price. Finally, if your parents do not agree to pay for the test, ask them to buy you a test-prep book, and you can study independently.

(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.)