DEAR HARRIETTE: I have one child who is quiet and reserved, and my other child is extroverted. I have tried to get them to do things together and to have the extroverted one help the shy one to make friends. All of my efforts seem to make things worse. They are very different people, even though they are close in age. I need to figure out how to help both of them to grow up and flourish. I don’t really have any good ideas about how to do that. Can you help? -- Two Different Kids
DEAR TWO DIFFERENT KIDS: Stop lumping your children into one basket. Look at them individually. Talk to them and ask about their interests, desires and fears. Find out what makes each tick. Think about what you learn and what you already know about your children, then determine what schools, extracurricular activities and support they may need to fulfill their destinies.
Engage the guidance counselor at school to help you with academic questions. If needed, get a therapist to work with one or both of your children to identify any mental health concerns that need to be addressed.
Most important, you need to accept that it is perfectly normal for your children to be unique. When you fully accept that and treat each one as needed, you give them permission to be themselves. While you do want them to love each other, you cannot force them to be friends or to take up the slack where it’s needed. They are children. Allow them to be just that. As the adult, your role is to support them as they grow up.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I just met a woman in her 40s while standing in line buying school supplies. She was getting them for herself while I was buying things for my kids.
I started talking to her and learned that she is going back to school so that she can change her career. She is not rich. She seemed like a regular middle-class woman. I found myself mesmerized by her. I have long thought that I should go back to school, but I never imagined that I could afford it. Meeting her made me think it could happen for me. I’m afraid, though. When I help my kids with homework, I sometimes feel so stupid. How can I drum up the confidence to start the process of getting more education? -- Higher Education
DEAR HIGHER EDUCATION: Consider it a blessing and a boost that you met that woman in line. Of course you can go back to school. The good news is that there are so many programs available. Depending on your interest, you should be able to find something that is affordable and can help you to reach your goals. Look into community college as a jumping-off point. Some are free. All are affordable. You can also look into online courses. And be sure to look into scholorships.
Figure out what your interests are and then go digging online. Seize the day. There is something out there that’s perfect for you!
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)