Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Family Road Trip Music Choices Cause Stress

DEAR HARRIETTE: My family takes a lot of driving trips to visit family and friends, even when we are going on vacation. It is the most affordable way for a family of five to get around. Where we run into trouble is that each of us likes different music. Our musical tastes could not be more different. So what happens is that there is an ongoing battle as to whose music gets played. When we are driving for five or more hours, this can be stressful. Do you have a recommendation on how to handle this? -- My Turn

DEAR MY TURN: This is a classic challenge for driving trips. The goal should be to play an assortment of music so that everybody will be happy by the time the trip has ended. Most important is to ensure that the driver is alert, so whoever is driving should have first dibs on the musical selections, especially when he or she is getting weary. Beyond that, you can map out the trip and divide up the time so that each person’s music plays for a while. You could invite a family member to create a playlist featuring a curated selection of everyone’s music mixed together.

If you have small children in the car, select times to play their music when you imagine they might be cranky. If you pay attention to everyone and what stimulates them to be friendly and engaged in the car, you can create an inspired environment.

You may also want to introduce games that get everyone talking and staying alert. My family sometimes plays the A-to-Z game, where we look for the letters of the alphabet in order on license plates, billboards and other signage. We call out when we see a letter and then we hunt for the next one. It keeps the whole car engaged.

DEAR HARRIETTE: A good friend of mine looks like he is extremely ill. He has lost tons of weight and is not doing well. When I have asked him what’s going on, he says some vague things, but nothing matches what’s happening to his body. I am so worried about him. His wife is in the dark as well. She says he keeps everything to himself. This makes it hard to know how to help him. She is at her wit’s end. Same for the close friends who have seen him. Is there anything I can do to help my friend who is holding everything so close to the vest? -- A Friend in Need

DEAR A FRIEND IN NEED: You cannot force your friend to disclose what is going on with him. What you can do is stay in close touch. Since his wife is also unaware of what’s going on with him, she needs as much support as possible. Call her regularly and invite her to join you for tea or coffee. Do your best to keep the lines of communication open so that if there is a need, it will be easy for them to reach out to 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 or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)