Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

After Reading Journal, Parent Should Talk to Son

DEAR HARRIETTE: My teenage son keeps a journal, which I think is great, though I didn’t know about it. I was cleaning his room the other day when I discovered it. I admit that I took a peek. Most of the entries were benign -- just teenage angst. But one entry I read revealed that he has tried smoking marijuana. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am. More, though, I am worried about him.

I don’t want my son to get hooked on smoking marijuana and stop paying attention to his schoolwork. Should I tell him that I read his journal? Is there another way to get him to talk about this? -- Son Smokes Weed

DEAR SON SMOKES WEED: Rather than informing him that you betrayed his trust, which will likely lead to less communication between the two of you, leave the issue of the journal alone and do your best to establish a solid rapport with your son. Ask him about his day and how he is managing at school. Ask him about drugs, sex and alcohol. You should do this on a regular basis -- not as an inquisition, but as a point of inquiry. Many teens experiment with all three, and you want to do your best to manage and understand your son’s engagement.

To do this, you must reinforce your family’s values about each one. Talk about sex and when you believe it is appropriate for people to engage in it. Talk about drugs, including marijuana, but not limited to it. Ask your son if he has tried any drugs. If he admits to it, ask him how they made him feel and whether he intends to keep doing them. Express your concerns about the effects of drug use on his body and his life. Address alcohol in the same way. Be clear about your beliefs and expectations for your son, and leave the door open to conversation. Don’t be too judgmental in your delivery, or else he will likely lie.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a nice co-worker who tries hard to do a good job. She is much older than me, and I can tell that some technical stuff is hard for her. I have helped her to learn how to manage some of the programs we use online and other techy stuff. What I don’t know how to address is the fact that she often smells like menthol. I guess her bones must hurt. That’s why my grandma applies menthol to her body. Whatever her issue is, she comes to work smelling like she just rubbed herself in arthritis cream. I want to tell her that this is not a good idea. She is barely able to keep up with work; smelling like an "old lady" is not doing her any favors. I am worried that if I say anything, it could become a human resources issue. How can I support her? -- Menthol-Free Workplace

DEAR MENTHOL-FREE WORKPLACE: Maybe, privately, you can use a bit of humor to get a conversation going with your co-worker about the smell. Next time you notice it, jokingly say, “Girl, you smell like my grandma!” If she reacts to your comment, you can tell her that you recognize the smell because your grandmother uses a mentholated cream for her arthritis. If your co-worker acknowledges that she uses such a product, you might point out that the smell is strong and lingers all day. Don’t connect the dots for her about old-lady smell and job performance. She has to figure that out for herself. But your mention of the aroma may get her to tone it down or apply only at night.

(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.)