Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Family Makes Jokes About Niece's Fiance

DEAR HARRIETTE: My niece is getting married, and we had an engagement party for her. In the past few years, one side of the family has been pretty rude to her, including being rude to her fiance. They are conservative Republicans, which is fine. What isn’t cool is that they are totally anti-Mexican, and my niece’s fiance is of Mexican heritage. They have made off-color jokes around him, and it’s unacceptable. They were on their best behavior at the engagement party, but that was unusual for them. My niece doesn’t want to include them in the wedding activities. I think they should talk it out. They are family, after all. I’m afraid that if they don’t deal with it, there will be a divide in the family that nobody will be able to fix. -- Family Drama

DEAR FAMILY DRAMA: Your family is not the first to have challenges around welcoming others into the fold, especially when the others are of a different heritage or religion. This issue goes back to the beginning of time. Still, you should not give up. If there is a way for the two families who represent your niece and her fiance to come together in a respectful, loving manner, that is the best way to start a life together. A marriage is bigger than two people; it represents two families. Do your best to encourage your niece to work with her fiance to build a bridge between the families. Even if they never become close, it is wise to consider how to come to a meeting of the minds and a place of respect -- for the future of the entire family, including any potential children.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My mother is getting up in age, and now she lives in a retirement community. My siblings and I talk to her almost every day and visit often, but she has become needier. I think she is worried that we will forget about her now that she’s living in this place. If I miss a day of talking to her, she guilts me like crazy the next time we speak. I want her to feel safe, comfortable and loved, but it’s hard when she is so needy. How can we get her to chill out? We aren’t going anywhere, but our schedules are busier than hers. Sometimes, for me anyway, I am not as consistent with my calls, but I am in touch with her multiple times a week. How can I get her to relax and enjoy her life? -- Mom in Need

DEAR MOM IN NEED: Find out what activities are available for residents at her retirement community. Encourage your mother to participate in as many daily activities as possible. This will keep her busy and help her to be less focused on you and your siblings. Coordinate with your siblings on a schedule. Since it helps your mother to have regularly timed calls and visits, do your best to honor whatever timetable you create. Consistency may help to alleviate your mother’s worries and reduce the pressure that you and your siblings feel in your support of your mother.

(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.)