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DEAR HARRIETTE: My son’s birthday and Christmas are close together. Some years, I have gone all out for both, getting him all kinds of things for his birthday and turning around to do the same for Christmas. This year, I can’t afford to do that. There’s a chance I could lose my job at the end of the year. There is a lot of uncertainty right now, and I can’t be extravagant in any way.
My son is a teenager now. Should I tell him that this year, we need to be more modest in the gifts category? I don’t want him to think I am punishing him by giving him less. — Reality Check
DEAR REALITY CHECK: Now is the perfect time to teach your son more about life. It is not about being showered with gifts. It is about family, love, compassion and understanding. Being the ultimate Santa for his birthday and Christmas is not setting him up for success as a person who needs to live in the real world. It is fun and exciting, but it is more fantasy than reality.
So talk to your son. Tell him it is time to be more selective about gifts this year. Invite him to think of one or two things he would appreciate that he can share with you. Be sure to tell him that your purse strings are tighter this year because the economy has changed, and you need to be more frugal. Begin to teach him about money, work and responsibilities. Don’t scare him, but open up to him a bit about your world so that he can understand what’s happening.
There’s a wonderful program that may be of interest to you — it that teaches children about money and helps parents learn how to talk about it with them. Check out worldofmoney.org.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My best friend and I have so many things in common, but not everything. One thing that we do not have in common is relationship experience: I have been in three long-term relationships, and my best friend has never been in one.
When I am telling her about my experiences, she can’t relate at all. Her advice is sometimes harsh, hurtful and unwanted. How do I tell her that I find her advice unhelpful because she cannot relate? — Useless Advice
DEAR USELESS ADVICE: You already know the answer. While this person is your best friend, she is not the best person to talk to about every topic. That doesn’t take away from how much you love her. It doesn’t give you perspective on what is appropriate to tell her. It also awakens you to the understanding that if you want a confidant to talk to about relationships, it needs to be somebody else. It is OK to expand your friend group. It may feel awkward at first, but it is perfectly fine to have more than one friend and to have friends for different reasons.