Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Parent Finds Vape Pen in Teen Son’s Room

DEAR HARRIETTE: My mother is having a big birthday, and she wants to have a party. My siblings and I are going to host it for her, which will be great. At first I wasn’t involved in any of the planning. I asked to participate, and now I am getting details. Among them is the cost of the event. I feel terrible. I used to be successful in my career, but I have fallen on hard times. I cannot afford to pay an equal share in the cost of the event. I hate having to say this to my siblings. It makes me feel like such a loser. The reality is, though, that I don’t have the money. How should I address this? I don’t want to ignore it, because it will just get awkward later. -- Elephant in the Room

DEAR ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: You need to be upfront with your siblings right away. You may want to choose to talk to the one with whom you are the closest. State what is likely obvious to all of them: You have limited resources. Express your desire to help with the party in whatever ways that you can, but make it clear that you cannot afford to split the bill with them. You can offer to contribute a particular amount that is manageable to you, possibly over time. Offer to contribute in other ways that may be helpful and that may be valuable responsibilities that you can assume rather than incurring additional costs.

(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.)