Q: The birthday boy has a cold. How do you tell his parents it’s not a good idea for him to blow out the candles on the cake that other kids are about to eat?


A: Parents can so easily be defensive around “criticisms” of their child. Saying something like, “Jimmy is sick, so he really shouldn’t be blowing out the candles because all the other kids will get sick, too,” not only states the obvious, but it easily can come off as a criticism of the child’s illness and the parents.

To protect against this, start by offering empathy. This will show the parents that you understand what they’re going through and that you care about them. Then offer a positive suggestion and help the parents implement it.

Say, “What a bummer that little Jimmy is sick on his birthday! That’s so hard on him and you.

“I’ve been thinking about how to help you with his cake so he can still enjoy blowing out the candles without the other kids getting sick, too. Maybe we cut a nice, big slice to put the candles on, and he can blow that out? The other kids can still enjoy cake without catching his cold. What do you think?”

CHRISTINA G. HIBBERT, host of Motherhood podcast


A: Knowing children, they likely will not be judicious about touching their nose, the other children at the party and subsequently the surfaces around the party area, which will then transfer the cold. So maybe the cake doesn’t matter. Who knows?

JACK GILBERT, co-author of “Dirt Is Good: The Advantage of Germs for Your Child’s ­Developing Immune System”