DEAR HARRIETTE: My stepsister has brought a different guy home for Christmas the past four years. I’m sure a new one will be coming again this year. My stepsister, Maggie, has gotten progressively more annoyed with the family for not paying as much attention as she would like toward her new boyfriends, but the holidays are a time to spend with family, not interviewing a man we’ll never see again. We do not want to call out Maggie for her rhythm of bringing boys in and out; however, we need her to accept that this is not a regular family dinner – this is Christmas! The first two boyfriends were definitely scrutinized, but we realized by the third that this was a tradition, so everyone lost interest. It is not my place to suggest that she bring no one and celebrate with family only, but complaining that the attention is not on her boy-of-the-season is ridiculous, and I’d like to call her out on it. What do I say? – Holidays Are for Family, Racine, Wisconsin

DEAR HOLIDAYS ARE FOR FAMILY: Out of love and respect for Maggie, reach out to her before Christmas. Admit that you know she is upset because the family hasn’t spent as much time with her dates as they did a few years ago. Tell her the truth: that you consider Christmas a very special time, reserved for family. If she is serious about somebody she wants to bring into the family – for real – you may be able to rally the troops to vet him. Otherwise, it’s not going to happen. The rest of the family wants to connect with each other, including her .• • •

DEAR HARRIETTE: After my mother got remarried to a religious man, the family has been expected to pray before each meal. I find that this is acceptable for religious holidays like Christmas and Easter, but otherwise it is awkward. I typically abstain from holding hands with the family because of how I was raised. My father is an atheist, and my mother never really discussed religion prior to meeting this man. I don’t plan to discuss my religious beliefs with my new family, but I am wondering if it is rude of me to abstain from the prayers. If someone from a different religion were to come to dinner one night, I doubt they would be expected to pray. I celebrate Catholic holidays with them for the sake of not separating myself from the family. Is abstaining from the prayer disrespectful to my step-father, who is leading these prayers? – Probably Not Praying, Syracuse, New York

DEAR PROBABLY NOT PRAYING: A few thoughts come to mind. For starters, talk to your mother. Ask her to help navigate this new landscape she has created. Beyond your mother, know that when you are in someone else’s house, it is expected that you will follow that person’s rules. Given your upbringing and relationship to religion, that can pose a problem. The simplest solution may be to be quiet – to not recite the prayer, but not to balk either.

— Lifestylist and author Harriette Cole is president and creative director of Harriette Cole Media. You can send questions to [email protected] or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.