Leaving the Nest

I received the below submission as comment on a previous post:

“I have a question! Next Fall my daughter is going away to a University. I’ve been preparing her for over a year now on how to live alone without a parent and what things to watch out for, yet I still have a lot of anxiety over her move and being without me. We will be 3 states apart and it is really hard for me to let go. What tips do you have on letting go and not freaking out when I say good-bye….. ”

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Dear Reader,

As you may, or may not know, I am not the expert on sending daughters off to college. So, I consulted the authority on this matter…my own mother. She has successfully sent 3 daughters off to college. I thought she might have some valuable insight, having lived it 3 times over.

If her insight isn’t what you needed to hear, I just have to say it was what I needed to hear this weekend. It gave me a boost for the week, I did not know I needed. Since our quick chat, I have felt continuously thankful that I have a mother that is so self-aware, wise, selfless and encouraging.  I know not so many people are as lucky as I am. However, dear reader, I think your daughter must be as lucky and me and my sisters have been.

My Mom expressed that she felt similar emotions to what you are feeling about the impending move and separation. That worrying about the “What if she can’t or won’t?!” is perfectly normal, but instead try to think about the “What if she can and will?!”. She said that positive outlook really made a big difference for her. She was able to be excited about our futures and be excited with us for the next step, instead of dwelling on something negative. Personally, I always feel the most excited and prepared when my parents are also excited for me. Their approval and belief in me gives me an extra boost of confidence when I might normally feel unsure.

From my perspective, I feel that it is human nature to fulfill the roles people assign to us. People who are labeled as”losers”, have been told over and over again they are a loser, they are lazy and are good for nothing. The same goes for people who are confident, successful and happy. They are built up by those around them. We start to believe and embody what the people around us think and say about us.  Since your daughter already has the tools needed to succeed, keep on encouraging her and reminding her of how great she will do on her own. Of course, there will be hard parts to college, but going in believing that she can handle it, that she is aware and that she will succeed will give her the upper hand in most situations.

In terms of letting go and how hard it can be,  my mother suggested, to be so thankful that you were able to raise a healthy young woman who can be on her own. That you can “let go”. There are many parents who wish that their child was capable of such an accomplishment. But on the day of the move, tears are inevitable! Do your best to keep it together, because it is not your daughter’s  responsibility to make you happy, but it is your responsibility to make sure she doesn’t feel guilty about pursuing her dreams.

All in all, you gave her the tools she needs, now believe in yourself that you succeeded in raising her right and share the joy and excitement that will come with the future.

With Love,

Stephanie

Room(mate) for Improvement

Dear Stephanie,

I live in a suite of 6 girls total and my roommate is great. But one of the other girls who lives in the suite is particularly disgusting with her bathroom habits. She also happens to come a much different culture and religion than me. I don’t know a lot about her or her culture. I want to approach her about her unsanitary habits but I don’t know how to go about it without being insensitive, because what if these restroom habits are part of her religion? How should I talk to her without causing a problem?

Sincerely,

A Repulsed Roommate


Dear Replused,

My gut reaction here is she is probably just a gross person and it doesn’t have anything to do with her religion. Cleanliness is next to godliness after all! But seriously, I did some research on the 3 major religions over the past few days and followers of these religions  are all supposed to be VERY clean. However, to play it safe do some research on her culture, religion and customs to be sure yourself. Learning about her customs may help you decide on how you should approach her.

Regardless, of what you learn, gross is gross and you will still need to talk to her. I do think she has no clue she is being unsanitary. She think’s what she is doing is totally ok. So you can’t be mad at her for that, but you have to try and teach her, for your own health and sanity. Approach her privately, not with the 4 other girls in your suite around, and be as non-judgmental as possible. While embarrassment is an effective way to get someone to change their habits, it is also a good way to ruin a happy and healthy relationship in the future. You talking to her one on one, I think, will provide enough embarrassment to get her to change her behavior, but not so much that she would be insulted. She will be glad and thankful that it was not in front of a crowd.

If anyone has a different idea or approach to dealing with a gross roommate please leave a comment below! I would love to hear your input.

With Love,

Stephanie

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Oh, Brother!

Dear Stephanie,

My brother is 22 and, although he certainly could be doing worse, he has always been the cause of much family contention and isn’t moving in the direction he could/should be.

He recently graduated college and continued right into his MBA at the same school, with no work experience or plan of what he wants, and did not want to answer any questions my family had or take any advice on maybe waiting and getting work experience in the field he thinks he wants to work in first. Leading up to graduation, he did not put much effort into recruiting for jobs he wanted. Once he saw he wasn’t getting any job offers, he just decided to keep going to school. I’m not sure if he really thinks this will help him get a job, seeing as it was really a lack of effort on his part that resulted in him staying in school.

Grad school is not a plan he had or something he ever expressed interest in before, and he did not have a reason (that he told us, at least) for continuing school. From our experience and what many successful people have done, we all agreed it would be better to wait and perhaps have more of a plan before paying for a graduate degree. He didn’t listen to what anyone said and just signed up for the program. He is also at a temp job but not treating it like an opportunity for full-time employment.

He is living with my parents now, which in itself is not a problem, but he has never gotten along with the family very well and doesn’t help around the house, interact with my parents, or even answer their simple questions most of the time. I know it is hard on them because they want to help him out any way they can and he barely speaks to them. Even if they aren’t probing or trying to offer advice, he is unresponsive and doesn’t want to be around them.

We joke about it as a family, but I want to be able to help him out. What can I do to get him to listen, or at least want to have a semi-serious conversation? Do I leave it alone and hope he’s just a (very) late bloomer?

Sincerely,

Trying to Help a Brother Out


Dear Trying,

Thanks for writing in. To be quite frank, it sounds like your brother is self-centered and needs to grow up. He’s taking your family’s interest and your parent’s generosity for granted. It must be really frustrating when your whole family is trying to help him but all your getting is the reaction from him that you mention above. However, on the other hand a MBA is never a bad choice; even if he is going about it in an unconventional way and he is unsure of what he wants after he gets his degree. A business degree will always be applicable in any field he will eventually pursue and future employers will take notice. So, I think maybe, cut him a little slack in that area. Just because it is not the exact way you or other people would do it, does not mean it isn’t the right choice for him.

If you still want to have a serious conversation with him about his education, I would approach from the angle of helping him discover what he wants to do after school. I don’t doubt you that he didn’t put the effort into finding a job, but maybe he did not put an effort in because he has not found something that excites him and motivates him. Which, if I am being honest, IS an immature outlook, but an outlook none the less, and one that many many people subscribe to. I would try to have a low pressure, brain storming type conversation about what he likes and wants to do in life. He probably needs some inspiration, and as his sibling, who is better to help him with that? Maybe, it will help you see him in a new light too.

However, the way he is treating your family is unacceptable at his age. Sounds like he needs a real heart to heart (knock upside the head) to be reminded how lucky he is that he can live at home without contributing to the household while pursuing further education and still be a rude person and family member. If I were you, I would remind him constantly how good he has it and that he owes your parents more than a thank you. Obviously, I am no parent but I would also suggest to my own parents to give him a taste of reality. Leave him alone and don’t ask questions but since he has a job, he can pay some rent. He can cook his own meals.  He can buy his own food and he can do his own laundry… Or whatever other benefits he’s getting from living at home. This push in to a faux deep end might accelerate his delayed blooming process and help him and realize that your family has been more just roommates at a boarding house to him.

All in all, I think you should keep talking to and encouraging your brother to be a better person, family member, student and future employee. It could be like talking to a wall for years, but the optimist in me hopes one day he will get it.

With Love,

Stephanie

If anyone else has any other suggestions or a different approach, please leave a comment below.

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Helping a Sister Out

Dear Stephanie,

My sorority sister is bulimic. She came back to school this year and lost tons of weight over the summer.  Everyone is like “yeah you look great” but I think that the compliments just make her more bulimic. I don’t think she throws up every single time she eats, but definitely most of the time. Sometimes she does it when I’m in her dorm room, and she uses the in-suite restroom. She knows I can hear her. One time I tried to say something but she was just like “yeah, I have issues”, and the conversation ended there.

Honestly, I feel like she’s a really dramatic person in general and she’s always seeking some kind of attention. That might make me a bad person, I don’t know, but she clearly has an issue. Also, her boyfriend is Satan, so maybe that has something to do with it? Anyway, it’s not like we are best friends. So I don’t know if I am the best person to help her. I would if I had a solid solution but I don’t. What should I do?

Sincerely,

A Worried Sister

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Dear   Worried ,

Thank you for sending me your question. I am really sorry to hear about the different struggles that you and your sorority sister are facing. Please keep in mind I am not an expert on eating disorders, but I have done some research to make sure I am giving you the best advice that I can.

That being said, the only person who could come up with a “solid solution”  and strategy for her recovery is a medical professional. In nearly everything I read,  for a person in your position it is best that you continue to be a supportive and understanding friend. As you may know, bulimia, like other eating disorders, is some sort a coping mechanism to feel some type of control over oneself and their lives. There is something bigger going on in their life that they are trying to control through disordered eating. Since, you mention her boyfriend and that he is awful, that could be one of the reasons she is turning to this destructive behavior. His presence in her life may just exacerbate what’s already there. You might not be the first person she would turn to for comfort and advice, but let her know you are there for her if she wants to talk and continue to remind her how great she is without making any mention of her physical appearance.

When the time is right to confront her again, you could again be met with that cavalier attitude, but you also have a chance to plant a seed for recovery. Maybe, check and see if your school has eating disorder support groups? Print the info for her. Let her know what resources exist. I think that time will come sooner rather than later. I feel that she is loudly crying for help. The attention seeking that you mention and the fact that she purges with you in such close quarters, tells me she wants someone to do something with her or for her—or perhaps even confront her and ask if she wants help. When and if you confront her, do it without judgment and criticism and let her know she is not alone.

As for your peers who keep complimenting her appearance, I am sure not everyone thinks she looks amazing. More might agree with you than you think, but it also won’t help your sorority sister if you’re going around trying to rally troops of people who think she looks awful and is ill. That will do way more damage than good. As I said before, keep being a supportive and kind friend and when people are raving about her appearance, you continue to focus on what is inside. Eventually other people, with less tact, will speak up and it will be known most people think she needs help. She will need a friend in that time more than ever.

The advice that I am giving is certainly much easier said than done and would take a lot of patience and kindness to not blurt out that she should get help now, but like I said and according to the professionals’ advice,  this is the best thing you can do for her right now. Last but not least in the event of a medical emergency (if she faints, for example) call 9-1-1 right away and don’t keep any secrets about your sorority sister that could impede her treatment and recovery.

So, I hope this is helpful for you and in turn your sorority sister. If anyone else has a suggestion on how to help both of these girls even further, please leave a comment below.

With Love,

Stephanie