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home : columns : dear harriette January 25, 2020

11/25/2019 7:58:00 AM
Colleague taken aback by friend's story

DEAR HARRIETTE: I was talking to a colleague, and we were bragging about our children -- something that many parents do for small talk. I was saying something upbeat about my daughter when she revealed that her daughter was having a difficult childhood in part because she and her husband were going through a nasty divorce during that time. I listened and stopped talking about my life, which sounded idyllic in comparison.

What should you do when you discover that somebody you are talking to has suffered a lot more than you or your family? I wasn't competing with this woman about our children, but it ended up feeling uncomfortable since her story was so heavy. What do you do in an awkward situation like that? -- Making Comparisons

DEAR MAKING COMPARISONS: In the natural course of conversation, you are bound to learn things about the people with whom you are speaking. Sometimes that information will be more intense, or emotional, or otherwise difficult than yours. That's fine.

If you are paying attention, then you should read the moment. In some instances, like the one you described, you may want to give the person space to tell her story. In other instances, if the conversation gets too heavy, you may want to change the subject, not necessarily to your family but to some neutral ground where you and the person and others who may be in earshot can get back to a more stable base.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My son has grown several inches since last winter, and he doesn't fit into any of his clothes. We are a working-class family, and we just can't afford to buy the clothes and shoes that he needs for the winter. We have tried to keep up with his growth spurts, but it's not working. It is getting cold, and I am worried about how to take care of him. I also don't want him to be embarrassed because his pants are short. It's hard enough being a teenager. When your clothes don't fit, it is awful. How can I talk to him about this so that he will be OK? -- Outgrown

DEAR OUTGROWN: You can talk to your son about what is natural for growing children and teens, namely that sometimes your clothes may not fit perfectly because it can be hard to keep up with the growth spurts. That's real. But also, you don't have to give up just yet. Check to see if there is a Salvation Army or Goodwill in your town. These organizations sell gently used clothes for low prices. Chances are, you can find clothing and shoes to fit him at an affordable price. Check with local churches, too. Some of them give away clothing -- including everything from coats to shoes and accessories -- for free.

You and your son need have no bad feelings about wearing gently used clothing. This is one way that we can practice sustainability for our planet by recycling existing clothing. Because so many people give to these organizations, you will often find excellent choices that will make your son feel comfortable.

Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.





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