DEAR HARRIETTE: My younger cousin confided something shocking to me. While I was explaining my various exercise equipment, she said that she knew what ankle weights are because her mom makes her run with them on her ankles and wrists. My cousin is 9 years old and incredibly thin. I cannot believe this happens to my cousin, and she looked so upset as she was telling me. I didn’t know how to respond, and we dropped the topic. This child wouldn’t lie, but I haven’t spoken to my aunt in years. I’m not sure how to react to this news. I do not want my aunt to make my cousin do this, but I also can’t tell someone I haven’t spoken to in years how to raise her daughter. What should I do? – Poor Cousin, Dallas

DEAR POOR COUSIN: If you believe your cousin is in danger, say something. Since she expressed distress to you, there is a chance that she needs support. Given that you haven’t spoken to your aunt in years, you will need to ease into communication with her. Call her or visit if you can, and let her know that you enjoyed spending time with her daughter. Build a rapport, and then tell her that her daughter told you about her exercise routine. Get her to talk to you about the routine that they follow. Tell her about your fitness regimen to open up the discussion. When you think she is hearing you, let her know that you think that weights on a young, thin child might be excessive. Stay in touch with your cousin. If you continue to be worried, ask another family member to intervene.

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DEAR HARRIETTE: I met my boyfriend’s mother recently. The first interaction between us after introductions was her asking me what my major was. After I replied art history, she gave me a surly glance and said, “Good luck with that.” I cannot believe how rude she was to me. I’d been seeing her son for months; he felt confident enough to bring me home, and his mother acted like a total snob toward me! She apparently thinks of art history as a lowly major, and she’s also never worked a day in her life. I spent the rest of my time avoiding her because I have decided I deserve an apology for that, or I will not be in her presence willingly. I could never call his mother out for being a snob, but I might be able to talk to her about how I will be a historian and feel as though this is a respectable profession. Is it too soon to be confronting my boyfriend’s mother? I do not want my major to become a running joke. He works in business now, and I plan on working as soon as I graduate college. – All Careers, Rochester, New York

DEAR ALL CAREERS: Talk to your boyfriend about what happened, and get his perspective. Yes, it was rude of his mother to dismiss your major, but do not expect an apology. Let go of your anger. If you think you and your boyfriend have a future, you will need to create a relationship with his mother. You can start by talking to her about your dreams and plans for the future. Educate her rather than avoiding her.

— 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.