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home : columns : dear harriette May 24, 2016

3/31/2014 12:18:00 PM
Neighbor's request makes reader uneasy

DEAR HARRIETTE: My neighbor stopped by to tell me that she is moving. We have known our neighbors for 20 years. She told me that the company her husband works for has transferred him to Texas, and she asked if we could allow her 17-year-old son to live with my family while he finishes his last year of school here in our town. She also offered to pay room and board. I have a few reservations about my neighbor's son living with us for the remainder of the school year. Last year, he was arrested, and I feel like he will be a negative influence on my children. How can I be assured that my neighbor's son will behave himself for the remaining months of his school year? -- My House is Your House, Salt Lake City

DEAR MY HOUSE IS YOUR HOUSE: You need to have a very candid conversation with your neighbors about this request. Express your concern about their son's arrest record. Find out specifically why he was arrested, and inquire about any trouble they may have had with him in the past. Explain your reservations about exposing him to your children, given your questions about his recent behavior.

Listen carefully to what your neighbor says. Probe until you feel that all of your questions are answered. You may decide this request is too big for your family to shoulder, in which case he may have to transfer schools, just as his parents are transferring their residence. If you decided to give it a try, you can create conditions. For example, if he does not follow your house rules or if he gets in trouble with the law, you will be obliged to send him to his parents. If you are able to come to clear terms that make you and your family comfortable, you may want to help them out in this way. But if your gut continues to say no, then say "no."  

DEAR HARRIETTE: My brother lives in a residential neighborhood, and I am terrified to walk down the street there by myself. It seems like everyone in his neighborhood owns an aggressive attack dog or two, and I do not think they should have these attack dogs as pets. I like where my brother lives and I would like to bring my children to visit their uncle at his place of residence, but I do not want to see anything bad happen to them. Do you think I am too cautious, or should I bring my children the next time I visit? -- A Cautious Mom, Bronx, N.Y.

DEAR A CAUTIOUS MOM: I would never want to bring my children to a place where I felt terrified myself. For now, have your brother come to visit you. Explain your reservations to him so that he understands it isn't personal. You are looking out for your children's well-being. As they get older, you may soften your view.  

(Lifestylist and author Harriette Cole is president and creative director of Harriette Cole Media. You can send questions to or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

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