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home : columns : dear harriette November 29, 2020

10/12/2020 8:21:00 AM
Debate participants make poor role models

DEAR HARRIETTE: My kids and I just watched the first presidential debate, and everybody is so upset. My kids are in middle school, and all they kept saying is that the candidates were acting like they were misbehaving schoolchildren. One of my kids said the two men were acting like they were in kindergarten.

I don't really know what to tell my kids. Of course, the candidates shouldn't have acted like that, but it seems like this is the new normal. What can I say to my kids to help them know what I expect and what our values are when our leaders are acting so poorly? -- Throw My Hands Up

DEAR THROW MY HANDS UP: Stick to expressing your values to your children. Point out that when people yell at and over each other, nobody's heard and nothing is accomplished. Remind them that learning how to talk to each other is a key to good, respectful communication. Note that, sadly, sometimes adults fail to follow that basic rule -- which doesn't make it right.

Give them hope by letting them know that they are the next generation of leaders. It is incumbent on them to learn how to communicate effectively, to commit to being strong in their research and convictions and to practice how to listen and be heard. While neither you nor they can control these men who are vying for the most important job in the world, they can do their part to ensure that when it is their turn to lead -- from roles in school and extracurricular groups right now to government in the future -- they must be ready to lead with dignity.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My mother has been hospitalized for COVID-19 for two weeks now, and the experience for the family has been horrible. Rarely can we get a nurse on the phone to give us updates. The doctor seems to be a phantom. Only once have we been able to reach him. The nurses have asked us to stop calling so much because we are disrupting their day. We have countered by asking if anyone can put our mother on the phone just so we can hear her voice. We aren't certain of the status of her condition and don't know what to do to receive better communication. What do you recommend? -- Disconnected

DEAR DISCONNECTED: Even all these months after COVID-19 began ravaging our communities and straining our hospital capacity, lingering problems of poor communication, and sometimes neglectful care, plague us. I have no magic bullet, but I have talked to some people in the field and can make some simple recommendations.

Assign one family member as the designated contact person. This will help the hospital staff to have one person to talk to and to contact with updates. Call the hospital in between shifts when nurses are more likely to be at the nurses' station. Be kind and clear. Ask for specific information as calmly as you can. Build a rapport with nurses if at all possible. If they care about you and your mother, your chances increase for finding out key details of your mother's status and care. Contact a supervisor if you are getting no results. Reserve sharp tones for moments when you need to escalate in order to advocate for your mother.

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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