DEAR HARRIETTE: My friend’s child seems to have some developmental issues. I wonder if he has a condition that is making him look a little different.
He also seems slow to mature. He is nearly 2 years old and is not talking yet. He has a good disposition, but he is developing slowly.
I wonder if my friend notices these things. I don’t want to get into her business, and I am not a doctor or anything, but I do think that by this age he should have progressed more.
How can I address this with her without being too invasive?
— Troubled Child
DEAR TROUBLED CHILD: This is a touchy subject. Children develop at different rates, even as there are norms that doctors follow to track their progress. Tread carefully.
Unless your friend brings up her child’s development, keep your mouth shut. It is likely that she is aware of her child’s challenges. Delayed speech could be common in her family, for instance.
If the child has a specific condition, it has probably been diagnosed already — even if your friend hasn’t told you.
This is a time when it is best for you to be a supportive friend without asking too many questions. When your friend is ready to discuss her child’s development, she will. Even then, do your best to be a good listener.
Avoid giving advice. Remember that you are a lay person. Whatever challenges your friend is dealing with require professional medical attention, not your individual ideas or good intentions.
DEAR HARRIETTE: One of my best friends lost both of her parents this year, within six months of each other. They were well into their 90s, but still, the loss has been devastating for her.
I am doing my best to comfort her, but sometimes I am at a loss. I still have my mother, who is in her mid-90s. I feel awkward talking about her now. I don’t want to rub it in that my mother is alive and hers isn’t, yet I am accustomed to talking about my mother all the time.
How do I handle this delicate situation? I never know what to say anymore.
— Life and Death
DEAR LIFE AND DEATH: During the next few months, your friend will likely be extremely sensitive to conversations about her parents and yours. That doesn’t mean that you should be silent, but you should be alert so that you can gauge her emotional state.
Checking in on her to see how she is managing is a start. You can also encourage her to tell you stories about her parents when she feels ready to share them.
You should not avoid talking about your mother. If something comes up about your mother, say it. Either leave it with the story or wisdom you gleaned from your mother, or ask your friend how her parents might have handled a similar situation.
Naturally incorporating her parents and your mother into conversation is likely what you did in the past. Don’t stop now. She will probably continue to talk about them for the rest of her life. You may be helping her to normalize her new life without them by bringing them into discussions about your own 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 email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.