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home : columns : dear harriette February 6, 2016

8/1/2014 8:46:00 AM
Friends won't share about parents' divorce

DEAR HARRIETTE: My friends' parents have been going through a rough patch for about five years. This year, they decided to get a divorce. I found out about this a few months ago and have been there for them whenever they want to talk. However, they usually don't want to discuss what's going on and how they are feeling. Even though they don't want to talk about their family and the divorce, I have noticed that they always seem upset or sad. They were very close with their father, and now they barely see him. I want them to know that I am here if they ever need anything, but is there anything I can do until they come to me? -- In the Middle, Albany, New York

DEAR IN THE MIDDLE: What you can do is to be there for your friends as a friend. Rather than asking them about the divorce, focus on positive ways that you can influence their lives. Think of activities that you have enjoyed together over the years. Invite them to participate in those activities with you now. When you call them or text them, communicate something uplifting. You can tell stories or share funny anecdotes. You can just call to say, "I'm thinking about you."  

The best thing you can do is to be a safe place for them to find consistent happiness. In this way, you may be able to draw them out to spend time with you, especially when things are tough. Avoid getting into their business. As much as you might be interested, you are not an expert on divorce or family dynamics. As a friend, remember to be a friend: a great listener with an open heart.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have two kids. My son is already in college, and my daughter is a senior who is choosing which college she wants to attend. We are a middle-class family and live in a wealthy town. I am incredibly worried about funding both of my children's education. I want to be able to support them, but I also know that we cannot afford to spend that much money on college. I would never want to sacrifice their education, but I am worried we will get into debt because of this. How can I tell my daughter that she cannot attend a school that we cannot afford without crushing her dreams? -- Reality Check, Westchester, New York

DEAR REALITY CHECK: How good are your daughter's grades? Before giving up on certain schools, help your daughter research scholarship opportunities that may be perfect for her accomplishments. Speak with the guidance counselor at her school to learn about opportunities that you may not already know.

Definitely talk to your daughter also about the reality of your family finances. Figure out first what you can afford to pay for her college education and which schools fit into that range. This will help her at least to see what the options may be. Remind her that every family has to make individual school choices based on what they can afford and the student's academic record. Promise your daughter that you will work with her to secure the best education that your family can afford.

(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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