Dear Annie: I’m a school secretary. How do I deal with parents who share sensitive personal information about their kids?

Dear Annie: I am a school secretary. Parents often call in with issues regarding their children. Some are very personal including health, family issues, abuse, neglect, behavior, etc. Many parents go into FULL detail as to what is happening. In these circumstances, I am not the person who can assist them. Instead, I refer them to a counselor, principal, nurse or teacher. I don’t blame them; they probably do not know where to start and they are struggling.

However, it puts me in an awkward situation as I really do not need to know so much about these students/individuals or take up their time and my own. My question is, what is a polite way to “cut them off” and get them where they need to be without seeming insensitive to what they are going through?

-- Sensitive Secretary

Dear Sensitive Secretary: First and foremost, if you suspect any abuse going on at home, it’s important that you report it to your local authorities.

For other issues, your approach is exactly right -- directing them to a more appropriate resource. It sounds like many of these parents are looking to vent more than they are expecting a solution. While this may be frustrating to you, I would try to reframe your mindset to view it as an honor that so many parents trust you enough to confide in you. If these conversations are eating up your whole day, then I would interject with something like: “I’m so sorry to hear that. Let me connect you to someone who can help.” But if it’s 10 minutes here and there, I would channel your empathy and hear them out before looking for a way to cut them off.

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Dear Annie: My husband and I have been together for more than 30 years. He is very loving and a great father and provider. I fell in love with him because he was so level-headed and mild-mannered.

We have two grown daughters. Our oldest does not want to grow up and move out. She’s very manipulative and will resort to shouting. My problem is that we may discuss a resolution, but he cannot enforce it. Many times I feel like he defers to her manipulation over our relationship. I feel like I’ll never be queen of his castle. Any advice?


-- Wife With a Waffling Husband

Dear Wife: It’s understandable why you feel so defeated. Instead of being able to rely on your husband as a partner in parenting, you’re left to play bad cop and lay down the law with your daughter.

Have an open, honest conversation with your husband about how his avoidance of discipline is making you feel. His actions are not only impacting you but also further enabling your daughter into continuing to depend on you both. It’s important that you two present and maintain a united front, for each other, your daughter and your marriage.

Annie Lane

Annie Lane offers common-sense solutions to everyday problems. She's firm, funny and sympathetic, echoing the style of her biggest inspiration, Ann Landers. She lives outside Manhattan with her husband, two kids and two dogs. When not writing, she devotes her time to play dates and Play-Doh. Write her: