Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Son Has Grown Lazy Without Structure of Camp

DEAR HARRIETTE: Usually I put my son in summer camp, but I didn't make him go this year. He wanted to have less structured time, which I understand. He has been oversubscribed for most of his life.

The problem is that I can hardly get him to do anything. He is sleeping a lot and claiming he doesn't feel well whenever I ask him to do something. Contrast that to when he wants to hang out with his friends and he suddenly has energy. What can I do to put some structure around his summer? -- SUMMER FREE

DEAR SUMMER FREE: You went from one extreme to the other with your son's summer. Now it's time to sit down with him and map out how he will spend the next few weeks. Look for some kind of extracurricular program in your city that he can attend. Often there are events that last for a week, or even single-day activities for young people that may be of interest. Sign him up for as many of those as you can.

Create a schedule that includes reading and prep for school. Most schools provide vacation reading lists, so he should be working on those assignments throughout the summer. You should check to make sure he is doing them.

Finally, make it clear to him that he has to do things that you arrange if he also expects to do things with his friends. The penalty for bailing on you is being prohibited to hang out with them.

DEAR HARRIETTE: Every summer for the past few years I have gone to visit my mother for a week or so. This year I haven't scheduled the trip yet. Things have gotten very busy at work, and I have been invited to participate in a few fun activities on the weekends with new friends. I just haven't booked my trip.

My mother is getting up in age, so I know I should go see her. As I look at the summer schedule thus far, though, I don't see a time that will work. I was thinking of planning the trip for early fall. Do I seem selfish for not making the trip now? I can go in September. What do you think? -- VISITING MOM

DEAR VISITING MOM: You need to talk to your mother and manage her expectations. If you have a rhythm that you have followed for years that you are now breaking, chances are she will notice. This doesn't mean that you can't change your trip. It does mean that you need to check in with her and make a plan together.

First, verify in your schedule when you think it works best for you to spend a week with your mother. Then talk to her about your idea of visiting in the early fall. You should also get a sense of how she is managing and what her plans are for the summer. Check to ensure that she isn't simply waiting for you to come but that she is active at home and enjoying her life, too.

(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.)