DEAR HARRIETTE: A family with two little girls moved in nearby. The girls are adorable, and the parents ask me to baby-sit often. The first time I went over to watch the girls, the parents were extremely sweet and cool. When they got home at the end of the night, the mom suggested that her husband drive me home. Everything was fine until he started to say a few things that made me uncomfortable; I brushed it off because I thought it was all in my head.
A couple of weekends later, the mom texted me asking to baby-sit for the girls again. I said yes and went over. At the end of the night, the mom suggested that her husband drive me home again. I insisted that it was OK and that I would rather walk because I live around the corner, but her husband was adamant that he got me home safe. This time, the husband started making suggestive remarks to me that made me extremely uncomfortable. I told my mom, and she told me to never baby-sit for this family again. I feel bad because the mom texts me often to baby-sit for the girls. Should I tell her that I am no longer interested in watching them? -- Uncomfortable Baby Sitter, Towson, Maryland
DEAR UNCOMFORTABLE BABY SITTER: Your mother is right in saying you should not work for this family anymore. I think you should take it one step further and reveal to the mother what happened. Do not embellish; simply tell her what her husband said to you and how it made you feel. This could come as a total shock to her. If so, it may prompt her to have a heart-to-heart with her husband.
There is a chance that she is aware of her husband's behavior. This couple may be swingers making an overture to you. No matter what the reason, you should remain clear on your intention, which is to tell the mom why you will no longer baby-sit for the family.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My son is about to turn 7. He is my youngest and the third boy in the family. Ever since he was little, he has been terrified of getting haircuts. When I say terrified, I'm not talking about the nervous feeling most kids get when they go to the barbershop; my son gets hysterical and his whole body starts shaking. This is new to me, because my two older sons never had this irrational fear. Some people say I should take him to a psychologist to see if there's something deeper going on, but others are saying this is just a phase he will grow out of. What do you think? -- Terrified of the Barber, Memphis, Tennessee
DEAR TERRIFIED OF THE BARBER: I wonder if your son got nicked at some point when he went to the barber, or if the sound of the buzz clippers scares him. In any case, try cutting his hair yourself and see how he reacts. Perhaps you can do it until his fear subsides. If that doesn't help, psychological support is a good next step.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My parents have been separated for eight months now, and they have both been seeing other people. I enjoy hanging out with my mom and her boyfriend, but I hate being around my dad and his new girlfriend. I feel like she has changed him. Since he started dating her, he has been acting differently. He asks my siblings and me to hang out with him and go over to his house every now and then, but we don't like being around him that much. I tried explaining this to my mom, but she doesn't care to listen because she and my dad don't speak anymore.
I feel bad that my dad genuinely wants to spend time together but I don't want to because of who he has become. Is it rude of me to tell him the ways in which he has changed when I know that he's happy? -- Daughter of a Different Dad, Atlanta
DEAR DAUGHTER OF A DIFFERENT DAD: The person you need to talk to is your dad. Your duty is to be open and honest with him and attempt to forge a solid relationship with him. Tell him the truth, with specifics, about what he has done that bothers you. Ask him to be mindful of what he says and does as it hurts you. Commit to making the effort to spend more time with him to see if you can work it out. Ask to spend alone time with him when his girlfriend isn't around.
DEAR HARRIETTE: For some reason, I just can't get out of a funk I've been in for the past couple of weeks. Some days I'll feel fine, and then other days I'll be down. I know I'm not depressed and I don't need to be medicated, but when I feel down, I don't want to do anything or see anyone.
My mom suggested that I go see someone just to talk about everything that has been going on in my life, but I feel stupid going. There hasn't been anything upsetting or tragic in my life, so I don't understand what I would even talk about or say when nothing has happened. Maybe it's because I just graduated from college and don't have a job yet, or that my boyfriend will be moving away. But why is my sadness coming in waves? What do you suggest I do? -- Always in a Funk, Jackson, Mississippi
DEAR ALWAYS IN A FUNK: What we have learned in the wake of too many suicide attempts is that many people are suffering from depression and are often disguising their pain or not even recognizing how significant it is. I am not suggesting that you are suicidal, but I do want you to take this state of mind that you are in seriously. It is smart that you are speaking up. Seek professional help right now. You can talk about anything and everything that is on your mind with a mental health professional. It should help you to process what's happening in your life and deal with the wave of emotions that you are feeling. You are experiencing a lot of change now. It is natural for you to be emotional about these things. Get help in learning how to deal with it all.
DEAR HARRIETTE: Against my wishes, my preteen daughter watched an online show that is very graphic in terms of sexual assault, underage drinking and suicide. I only know that she watched it after looking at her online account, and I don't know if I should punish her or use this as a teachable moment. I'm sure sitting down with her mother to talk about these hard-hitting topics would be enough to make her squirm, but my husband thinks I should just take away access to the streaming service. How should I react to my daughter going behind my back? -- All Topics Welcome, Seattle
DEAR ALL TOPICS WELCOME: As the mother of a 13-year-old, I am well aware of the Netflix series "13 Reasons Why," which has garnered a tremendous amount of attention this year. My daughter told me about it, stating that she and her friends were watching it, and she thought I should, too. At about this same time, the entire school system -- public and private -- in New York City was asked to talk to students about the content of the series and to check in with students on how they were managing.
Without question, the subject matter is disturbing. Through dramatic narrative, suicide and the reasons leading up to it, including virtually every potential area of teenage exploration, are illustrated. Yes, some of the scenes and content are disturbing. I took it as a teachable moment. I watched the entire series, including the synopsis at the end, which is essential. I have since participated in ongoing dialogue with my daughter about it.
Her school had someone come in to talk to the students, which helped to a point. The challenge was that the professional had not yet watched the series when the conversation occurred, so he lost credibility.
For you, as a parent, do not shut the door on this. Watch the series -- every episode. Contemplate what you see and what it means to you as well as what you think it may mean for a preteen girl and her friends. Ask your daughter what she thought about the series. Find out how much she watched. Inquire as to what she and her friends are talking about related to the show. Ask if she knows of any students who use drugs, engage in sexual activity or have considered suicide. Do not press. Build a conversation with her. Do not punish her. Instead, let her know that you want her to check in with you before watching questionable content, meaning anything that isn't G or PG. The better you are at opening the door to communication, the better your chances are at building a rapport with your daughter that will help her weather the teenage years and its endless conflicts with strength and focus.
Harriette Cole is a life stylist 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