Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Teenage Son Falling Into the Wrong Crowd

DEAR HARRIETTE: My son has started hanging out with a group of boys who are constantly getting into trouble. He is in the ninth grade at a new school, and I know he has had to figure out how to fit in, but what he is doing is not good for him. They have gotten in trouble for smoking marijuana on school property and drinking at a party with a bunch of other kids.

I know that teenagers try things, but I need my son to understand that his choices matter. How can I get him to take his actions seriously without coming across as a shrill mother who is overly protective? -- Helping My Boy

DEAR HELPING MY BOY: Pick a time to talk to your son when neither of you is distracted by other activities. You want to be calm, even-tempered and not accusatory. Talk to your son about life and the future. Let him know that you are disappointed that he has been making choices that compromise his reputation and that could put him in an adversarial relationship with law. Remind him that even though he is young, his actions matter, and what he does today will not necessarily be forgotten tomorrow.

Ask him if he has started to think about what he wants to do with his life. Explore his interests. In what subjects does he excel in school? What attracts his attention? Do your best to get him to think about what he wants to do with his life; encourage him to focus on those areas. The best way to get him to pivot from his current behavior is to help him explore something else that he may enjoy more.

DEAR HARRIETTE: About a month ago, my alma mater had our annual homecoming celebration. A couple of weeks later, one of my classmates who was there died. This is so sad and tragic.

We are getting to the age when more people are leaving us, but this one was shocking. I did not know that this friend was ill. We are all in our 50s, and things are beginning to break down. But I had no idea that this guy -- or any of us -- was close to death. Now I am freaking out about who might be next. I also keep wondering if it will be me. I feel like I’m in the prime of my life with a growing family and a good job. What if I died tomorrow? I’m finding it hard to talk to my wife about this, but I know that my attitude isn’t good. I am afraid. What should I do? -- Facing Mortality

DEAR FACING MORTALITY: When people close to us die, it can shake us into a new sense of reality. Of course you know that people die at all ages for a wide variety of reasons, illness among them. Consider this a wake-up call for your own health. Go to your doctor and get a complete physical. Find out the status of your health, and do whatever is necessary to remain as healthy as possible. Know that your wife will probably welcome an open and honest conversation about health. Go for it.

(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.)