Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

DEAR HARRIETTE: My daughter is 16 years old. She is in her second year of high school and is a very sweet, compassionate, caring girl. She is currently dating a senior boy who is 18.

I am afraid my daughter is in an unhealthy relationship with her boyfriend. I do not believe he physically abuses her, but I feel like he emotionally bullies her into doing whatever he wants. I don’t like his personality at all, let alone their age difference.

I want to help my daughter, but I don’t know where to begin at all. Coming from her father, I want to be there for her and protect her from getting hurt, but I also don’t want to seem overprotective. Do you have any advice for a father trying to talk to his daughter about a sensitive topic? -- Scared Father, Bronxville, New York

DEAR SCARED FATHER: You should tread lightly here, because people who feel they are in love don’t listen well. Plus, unfortunately, daughters often seem immune to their fathers’ advice at the very moment when they need it the most.

One way you may get her to hear you is to tell her stories -- true stories -- about your life in the dating world and any missteps that you or your friends may have experienced. Give her examples of controlling men and how they can mess up women’s emotional well-being. Tell her you are concerned about the way that her boyfriend is treating her and that you would be a bad dad if you didn’t mention it. Assure her that you will support her no matter what, but encourage her to balance her time with other friends.

Stay aware of her behavior and her free time, to the best of your ability. If she is willing to talk to you, be a good listener and do not judge. She may have to get her heart broken before she learns her lesson. Remain close so that you can help soften the blow.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I just moved into a new apartment. The space was originally a two-bedroom apartment, but my roommates and I converted the living room into another “bedroom,” so the space now sleeps three. Although I knew this decision would mean living space would be tight, my roommate who lives in the living room is taking up too much space. Not only is her bed in the middle of the room, but she is extremely messy, so her things are strewn all over the apartment! I don’t want to criticize her way of living, but at the same time I need to tell her to clean up her things. Do you know how I can talk to her without offending her? -- Messy Roommate Problems, Akron, Ohio

DEAR MESSY ROOMMATE PROBLEMS: Request a household meeting -- something that would be good to do on a weekly basis anyway. Remind your roommates that you are living in a tight space and that it’s important for everyone to work hard to maintain some order. Suggest a task you will do, and ask each roommate to pitch in. To the messy one, remind her that she lives in a common space, and you all need her to be tidier.

(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.)