Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Parent Wants To Check In on Son's Religion

DEAR HARRIETTE: During his first year of college, my son joined a fraternity. I am concerned that what he went through during his pledging process did not adhere to his and our religious ideals. I don’t want to control his religious identity, but he tells me he is still Muslim, and I expect him to live in accordance with our faith.

How do I ask if my child still believes in our religion, and what should I do if he doesn’t anymore? I would disagree with him but want to respect his choice. -- Religion in College

DEAR RELIGION IN COLLEGE: When your child gets to the point of college, your prayer should be that you have laid the groundwork for him to make smart decisions based on the values you have taught him and the decision-making tools you have given him. Will he make mistakes? Without question. Should you still have some measure of influence over him? Yes, but now it is limited. Your son needs to have space to make choices and live with them. I do not recommend that you query him about every single thing he does. Instead, I suggest that you continue to talk to him about values and ask him to consider how he can become part of his college community without losing those beliefs.

The pledging process for fraternities and sororities has many “secret” components. You may never learn all that he experienced, and honestly, that’s probably for the best. Beyond what has already occurred, focus on the future. Encourage your son to navigate his life keeping his religious beliefs in mind. Be aware that he will not be perfect in his efforts to grow into adulthood. If you think back on your own life, chances are, you made your share of mistakes, too.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband has been experiencing a midlife resurgence of regular exercise, and while that is beneficial to his physical health, I’m concerned it is affecting his relationship with our son. He has been forcing our son to partake in various sports, and although my son is doing these activities, he’s constantly complaining that he’s being overworked, having to balance this regular intensive exercise with his work. How can I go about mediating this situation? -- Overworked

DEAR OVERWORKED: Remind your husband that this surge in exercise is his passion, not your son’s. Suggest that he give your son some time off from the rigors of exercising so that he can have time for the other things that are important to him. Negotiate a more reasonable amount of time per week that your son works out with him. Then make sure that your son shows up for the agreed-upon schedule.

The way you can make this less agonizing for your son is to give him some say in what he chooses to do with his dad. What does he enjoy that his father is now doing? He can choose that. Also, encourage your son and your husband to use this time together to talk about life and other topics that will help the two of them bond.

(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.)