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home : columns : dear harriette July 7, 2020

5/29/2020 12:28:00 PM
Teenage son refuses to take showers

DEAR HARRIETTE: I'm having a hard time getting my teenage son to get up and take a shower. I don't mean every day; I'm talking once a week. When I pester him, he blows me off, saying he's saving water, or asking why it matters anyway; it's not like he's going anywhere. Really? Basic hygiene is still important. And the doctors say being clean is part of what keeps us safe. How can I get him to snap back into being responsible for himself? -- Hygiene

DEAR HYGIENE: Your son is being a teenager -- times 10. For what it's worth, he is not alone. Many teenagers (and others) have slacked off on the basics after this extended period at home. Some people are hardly getting out of bed. It's not good, but it's true. To motivate your teenager, you have to get him where it counts. Take away his phone and all other electronics until he bathes. Tell him how many times a week you are requiring him to clean up. Then take his electronics and give them back only when he has complied. Trust that he will get clean fast if he suddenly cannot communicate with his friends.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I worked so hard over the past two years to clean up my credit and boost my credit score. When this year started, I had the best score of my life. Now I'm watching all of my hard work go to hell. I lost my job, and I don't have the resources to pay my basic bills anymore. I found a part-time gig at my church that is good because at least I can buy food and pay rent for now. But my other bills? I don't have the money. What can I do to save my credit score? -- Crash and Burn

DEAR CRASH AND BURN: I just listened to advice on this topic from Michelle Singletary, a financial reporter for The Washington Post. She suggested that you have to put everything into perspective. While it's wonderful to have an excellent credit score, that simply cannot be the priority right now. Surviving must be at the top of the list. She cautioned people to pay the essentials first: rent or mortgage, electricity and food. I would add communication -- telephones are essential, too. After that, start negotiating with your creditors. Call anyone you owe money to, and talk to them about revised payment plans and potentially reduced bills. These days, creditors are often willing to work with anyone who is attempting to settle a debt.

As far as your credit score goes, it is most important for you to have a high score when you are applying for a loan. Unless you are currently looking for a loan, you can survive a dip in your score. Don't belabor the credit report now. When the time comes for you to need it, you can explain what happened during the period that your score dropped. Like most everybody else in the world, you were living through the pandemic. We will all need a pass for surviving this one.

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.

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