Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Teen Son Hangs Out With Older Crowd

DEAR HARRIETTE: My son has been eager to get back outside with his friends for the remainder of the summer. We haven’t figured out whether school will be physically in session or not. He’s expressed missing his friends and feeling locked up and not having anything to look forward to. So with all the right precautions, I let him go down to our local park to play basketball and exercise.

I’ve been speaking to some of his friends’ moms, and they haven’t let their kids go to the park. When I asked who he has been hanging out with, it turned out to be older men in their twenties and thirties working out at the park. My son is only 13. If he isn’t hanging out with his own friends who I know or kids his age, I am not comfortable with him being outside associating with these grown men I do not know. I don’t want to tell him he can’t go to the park anymore, but I don’t think he’ll understand that I do not want him hanging out with these older new friends either. How can I give him freedom while still protecting him? -- Quarantine Mom

DEAR QUARANTINE MOM: This is simple. Your son should not go and play with grown men who are unknown to him. Period. You can go with him one day to see who is there and to observe the interaction. But unless you can identify someone you know, you should not let him hang out with them. That is for safety reasons on more than one front. You want to limit your son’s interaction with everyone, especially people he doesn’t know. And you want to make sure that he isn’t exposed to behavior or enticements unbefitting a teenage boy.

Talk again to his friends’ moms to see if any of them would be willing to organize socially distanced gatherings with your son. That’s the best alternative, in my book.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a stay-at-home mother, and my husband works from home now. We have three kids and two dogs, a full house. We start our day early and end in the late evening. My husband is in his office most of this time. We have tried to create work and personal life balance with boundaries. He does not work outside of his office, and he keeps work between certain hours.

Even though we have found our rhythm, I feel so alone and programmed without a break. My kids need attention every second, and my husband is close but not here most hours of the days. When I do get a break, I feel exhausted and don’t know how to relax. My home is supposed to be my sanctuary, but being home and never needing to go anywhere, I’m not enjoying my breaks. What can help in this situation to put my mind at ease? -- Stir Crazy

DEAR STIR CRAZY: Step back, take a breath and reassess the situation. Yes, it is stressful. But much of it is likely similar to life before COVID-19. Think about what you managed then and what is different now. Assign your children specific responsibilities that give you a bit of flexibility.

Let your husband know that you desperately need his help. Even if it’s one hour each day after work, you need him to engage the children so that you can have an hour off. Don’t complain when you talk to him about this. Explain that this is what you need in order to keep the family in check.

(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.)