Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Parent Wants Son To Get Academic Support

DEAR HARRIETTE: For the most part, my son is a good student, but he struggled in one class all year long. When he got his first bad grade, I suggested that we get a tutor, but he insisted that he would be OK, and he discouraged me from getting involved. Now, at the end of the year, he is still struggling with this class. I am so mad at myself that I didn’t trust my instincts and get him the support he needed. How can I convince my son that there is no shame in getting academic support? I want to be mindful not to be too bossy, but at the same time, I do know best in this situation. -- Need a Tutor

DEAR NEED A TUTOR: Once you have your son’s transcript for the year in hand, review his grades and talk to him about what he thinks he did well and where he can improve. Get him to open up to you about his successes and failures. The more you can encourage him to own his achievements -- or lack thereof -- the better off you both are. As a high school student, he is learning to be independent, something essential for college and for life.

That said, you are still the parent, and you do know things he does not. Explain that having a tutor is smart because it can reinforce knowledge and help him to explore ways to articulate concepts from class in a more effective manner. There is no shame in getting this type of academic support. In fact, most schools encourage it.

Tell your son that you want to partner with him next year. At the first sign of difficulty in a class, agree to talk about it and to discuss what type of help he may need. Let him know that if you determine that a tutor is best, he must try it out and take it seriously. This is where you put your foot down -- but only after working to get him to co-sign the idea.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am part of a friend group that has been together since high school. Now we are grown women with children and adult lives, but we still stick together. It’s really nice. Because we know each other so well, it’s easy to talk about anything, even when we are having problems. I love that about my friends.

Recently, one of our group had the idea that we should get matching tattoos to show our enduring friendship. This is where I draw the line. I don’t want to get a tattoo. Everybody else does. How can I stay close with the group and also not give in to this request? -- No Tattoo

DEAR NO TATTOO: Whatever your friends plan to tattoo on their bodies, you can have made up in a necklace. Tell them how much you love and support them and how much you appreciate the sentiment of the tattoo. Then draw the line and make it clear that you will not be getting the tattoo. Because you want to be part of this group effort, tell them you will research having a necklace made with the symbol or word(s) that they intend to print on their bodies. You can invite them to get a necklace, too, if they like.

(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.)