Overprotective Dad wonders what should he do?
September 7, 2013 5:19 PM   Subscribe

So my awesome daughter is going to a University 2 days from home, she like myself is very introverted but self conscious...

We are with her in the city and she moved in Thursday and had a tough night. She has basically met no one and knows nobody in the school or the city. She was attending all the events but again like me she is a bit socially awkward. Right this minute she is "standing alone at a carnival" and my heart aches because I remember that feeling. Help me deal with this and maybe some real advice I could pass along. I worry that this will be 8 months of living hell for her if she isnt positive and the past three days have sucked for her from what she has said.

Second question is that Monday is the first day of classes but we were going to leave sunday... I so want to stay till tuesday and be here for her but what is the best thing todo? Leave tomorrow and pull the bandaid off or stay... I think it is leave but unlike usual I really don't know? Advise etc would be very welcome....
posted by mrgroweler to Human Relations (37 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Pull off the bandaid. Growing up is painful and learning to meet people is hard, but so worth it. Tell her to hang with her dorm or roommates, to join only a few activities and really find her people. Not everyone is good at meeting people at large random events. These are skills she has to learn and not only can you not help her by staying, you're hindering her learning. It's hard, but thousands of kids, awkward or not, figure it out every year.

Go home. Let her make a new home here.
posted by c'mon sea legs at 5:24 PM on September 7, 2013 [26 favorites]

i think she will probably be just fine given a little time and space. your leaving earlier rather than later will probably help her to adjust. with you there she has you to fall back on but when she is on her own she will have to come out of her shell and start interacting with other students. i think she just needs to start talking to people and not worry so much about saying the right thing. it's time to cut the apron strings and let her soar. also, i don't think it would be good to be in too much contact by phone or email for awhile. she needs to focus on where she is and not be holding onto to her parents too much as that will hold her back from finding her place in college. if she really isn't able to adjust over the next few months then it would be helpful to advise her to see a counselor on campus.
posted by wildflower at 5:27 PM on September 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Leave. She'll meet people or she won't, but it's better for her to go to her classes, go to the lunch halls, etc. You can't stay all year. If she hates the year, she'll do something else.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:29 PM on September 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yes, leave. This is her journey. Let her learn to deal with it on her own from now on, as painful as that will be.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 5:30 PM on September 7, 2013

The only way you and she will be able to tell if this is going to work is if she tries to do it the way she's going to have to do it for the four years. Make sure she has some concrete ideas on how to cope (student counseling center, etc.) if things get worse before they get better, and wish her the best, and go home on Sunday as scheduled.

(There is nothing wrong with offering her occasional support from home, and specifically asking her to stay in contact or call if she's having a hard day or whatever, but you need to give her space or this college thing simply will not happen.)
posted by SMPA at 5:32 PM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hi! I was your daughter ten years ago or so, and like everyone else has said, the right thing to do is leave. I found activity fairs and carnivals and all of the other big first week of college events particularly awful as a way of getting to know people, as everyone there seems to be having fun with people they already know, but once classes start and she gets into the swing of things—group projects, homework buddies, in-class discussions, etc.—she'll meet people and be just fine (I did! I was! I am!). Tell her to hang in there, support her from home, and remind her that she'll have a routine soon, where she'll be seeing the same people every day, and that some of these people will become awesome friends.

Good luck, to you and to her!
posted by rebekah at 5:40 PM on September 7, 2013 [12 favorites]

I met one of my dearest friends (man of honor at my wedding) in the first few days at college, bonding over being socially awkward and feeling like everyone else already knew each other. We probably would not have met if I'd had my mom in town to spend time with.

Chances are excellent that she'll be fine. You will not help by staying, and may hurt. Aside from that one friend, most of my other friendships evolved in smaller groups--classes, clubs, friends of people I met through those things. Remind her that most people also don't know anyone yet, and most people *like* meeting new people too when they're in a new place for the next 4 years.
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:44 PM on September 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

I was your daughter over a decade ago (where does the time go?), and I agree -- leave. My parents left -- but then came back to get me. I wanted them to, don't get me wrong, I cried every day and was miserable and told them that I wanted them to come get me ... but it took me years to get over the feeling that I was a failure b/c I was homesick and left after less than 10 days to go to university in my hometown instead of staying at least through the first quarter. I often wonder what would've happened if I would've stuck it out, and although I'm very happy in my life now, and nothing would be the same if I'd made a different choice, part of me wishes my parents would've made me suck it up. (After all, I went to school in my hometown and was still grouchy and miserable and didn't get to know anyone!)
posted by oh really at 5:50 PM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

The best thing for you to do is leave. Your daughter knows you love her and are there for her even if you are not in the same city. She needs to do this on her own. Your staying there is only prolonging the inevitable.

I was much more shy when I was in university than I am now. When I moved to a city where I didn't know anyone for grad school, I cried alone in my apartment every night for the first week. But I DID make friends, and it did not take me long--I had a group of people who were inviting me places after that first week!

I made myself approach friendly-looking people who were in my classes or at orientation-type events. The funny thing is, it seemed like a lot of the people I approached and talked to were RELIEVED that I had come up to them. They were feeling the same way I was (lonely, friendless, awkward) even though they didn't look it. Tell your daughter that more people than she thinks are feeling the same way she is, and they'll feel relieved if she approaches them first.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:58 PM on September 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

Leave first thing tomorrow morning. I cried my eyes out on the first night of college, because I was awkward and shy and didn't know anyone and everyone else seemed to be making instant friends all around me. But it got a lot better very quickly, and that started when my family left.
posted by decathecting at 6:02 PM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Leave, yes. I was a similar college student.

Encourage her to do all the dorky orientation stuff--it's a really great opportunity to bond with fellow nervous freshman ("This is soooo dumb! Wanna go get lunch after?").

Encourage her to take the risk of starting a conversation with someone. I made the mistake of thinking, "I'm shy, other people aren't. They'll come to me if I'm interesting/smart/cool enough." Being shy and introverted, I didn't realize that most nervous college freshman have trouble starting conversations--especially with shy people. On the other hand, as a shy person, if I break the ice--"Hi, I'm Meg. Where are you from?" a more extroverted person can take that prompt and run with it. That is one piece of advice I wish I'd had a long time ago.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:12 PM on September 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

Let her know that feeling awful doesn't mean there is anything wrong. It is normal and reasonable for someone who is slow to warm out to feel uncomfortable and out of place in a new situation. Doesn't mean that she isn't in the right place, she just needs to understand that it takes time.
(Similarly, don't over-react to her distress. Yes she is unhappy. No, it doesn't meant that you have to fix it. "I love you. I'm sure you will work it out.")
posted by metahawk at 6:21 PM on September 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

My dad helped me unpack my stuff, and left me. I too am an introvert, and it was scary at frist. (My at-the-time boyfriend was going to college there, so it made the burden a little less heavy as he knew his way around campus.) However, I still had to get myself to classes, stand in line at the cafeteria, get to know my roommate, etc on my own.

My dad and I had gone about a month earlier for freshman orientation, and that helped a lot. Go around with her on Sunday if you didn't have an orientation and help her find the buildings, etc. Other than that, leave.

I'm still an introvert. I didn't make a ton of friends in college, but my dad staying an extra two days would have no effect on that. As time went on I became more independent, and ended up staying in my college town year-round after sophomore year.

Also, you need to give her a chance to meet her roommate and talk about classes and boys on the first couple days without her dad hanging around. No matter how close you are, or how cool of a dad you are, she doesn't need to be the girl whose dad/parents hung around too long. (And this is coming from someone who is a total daddy's girl and whose dad was friends with all her friends and is not embarrassed by her dad...)

Advice for her to start: Try to find a buddy in each class. It helps you make friends along with having someone who can let you know if you missed any homework. A cute business card (friend card) with basic contact info and a photo is a good idea, if you have time to get some printed.
posted by Crystalinne at 6:22 PM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was the same. Bawled my eyes out the first night, then the next day I *forced* myself to watch up to a group of girls sitting together and say, 'Hi, I don't know anyone here...do you kind if I sit with you guys?'

They became my best friends for the next decade.

This will only happen for your daughter if you MAKE her do it. But her some food treats for her room, make sure she has cash, give her a big hug and LEAVE.

She'll be fine!
posted by Salamander at 6:22 PM on September 7, 2013 [7 favorites]

A guy I knew in the Army a long time ago called it the Falconer's Dilemma: No matter how well you train the bird, you don't really know whether it'll come back that first time you let it off the line. So eventually, you just have to say, "Fly."

Let her fly.
posted by Etrigan at 6:32 PM on September 7, 2013 [23 favorites]

The sooner you can get out of there the better; Thursday night, Friday morn would have been best!
posted by Kronur at 6:50 PM on September 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

What I wish someone had told me when I was feeling lost and inadequate socially as it seemed the rest of the world just naturally formed large laughing groups with plans, is you only need to make one friend, you don't need to get the whole deal, you just need to find one person you can relate to about something and then you aren't alone in it any more.
posted by InkaLomax at 6:50 PM on September 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

Leave...but give her a call when you get home to ask her how it is going. That way, you vsn be there, but not be there, if that makes sense.
posted by anitanita at 7:13 PM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Leave. Not just because your daughter needs to learn how to be social without you, she needs to learn how to be alone without you, too.

I'm an introvert, too. Of all the people I met at college, there were five or less people I actually considered friends, none of whom I'm in touch with currently (alas). I am located in a city where commuting to school is a feasible and sensible option, so I didn't move onto dorm until my third year, when everyone already had cemented social circles...and let's be frank, I was the "go to school, go to lab, go home" type of person for most of it anyway, even when I lived on campus. So yeah, I spent most of my undergrad years alone.

And I turned out fine. I'm comfortable in my skin, I know how to take care of myself, and I know how to be comfortable when the only presence I know is myself in my head. Mind you, I've been slower on the uptake on social situations than I would've liked (it is much harder to make friends outside of school, and I was behind on social skills), but knowing how to be alone, and being okay with it, is a very valuable lesson as well. Worst case scenario, she makes very few friends at school (I hope not!) - she'll need the space to learn to be on her own and being okay with that. Better scenario, she'll need a few days to get used to the change and stretch her social legs without you coming back to fix it.

Give her a hug, and support her from afar; she'll be fine, either way.
posted by Zelos at 7:14 PM on September 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yup, Zelos is right. You're not going to make anything better by staying, and learning to be alone is a really valuable lesson.

I went to college 1500 miles or so from where I grew up, and I moved in alone with all my belongings in black plastic trash bags. All the other girls on my floor had parents and siblings and cute luggage and social skills, and I cried myself to sleep every night of orientation (and, honestly, a lot of nights after that). However, college taught me how to be okay on my own. I look back now and can barely relate to that girl who was so desperate for friends that she actually CRIED. I like my own company and am content with myself. I think it's actually really useful to know how to handle a crisis on your own, without the input of others. Self-reliance feels awesome in the long run.

Also, she should go to as many of the stupid orientation activities as she can. My one regret is that I skipped a lot of them because they sounded dumb ("Casino Night" sticks out in my mind), but I'm sure there were people there who thought the same thing but went anyway, and we could have bonded. Yeah, it's hard to do things that seem dumb when you're already feeling crappy, but in the case of freshman orientation, it's likely to pay off. That said, if she doesn't find "her people" during orientation, it's really not the end of the world. It's probably going to feel like everyone has already found their friends and established their groups, and it's important that she doesn't let that discourage her from trying new things.

Make sure to let her know that you believe in her and that she can be successful in college even if she doesn't find a defined group of friends during orientation.

Does she have a roommate? I didn't and I had to work extra hard to talk to people. If she does, is she okay with hanging out with her for the first few days? Even if they don't end up friends, maybe she'll meet people through the roommate.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 7:27 PM on September 7, 2013

Response by poster: Wow, first thanks and yes i know in my head leaving tomorrow is best... The heart is the problem.

I have told her lots of simple advice. "finish knitting your totoro out in the common area someone will ask you about it" (she is a knitter)

It is stuff like she texted me "my whole house went to dinner without me" that breaks my heart!

I understand the friendship thing too but the problem is i know she has to learn it the hard way.

Thank you all though I actually feel supported so that is new even for me.

And no she has no roomate which is actually a good thing for people like us.
posted by mrgroweler at 7:50 PM on September 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm glad you're going home. You can also practice responding in a way that validates that her feelings are real, but that also kind of... nips that "my whole house...!" thing in the bud. I sincerely doubt that her whole house, including her res life staff, deliberately organized a dinner such that she was deliberately excluded, particularly if she's at a US college with a house system instead of a dorm system. I'm saying this as someone who's been a student, a staff member, and a teacher at colleges with house systems.

There's a difference between feeling excluded and being excluded, and in my experience with college students with overprotective parents, that difference sometimes gets lost. The way she's feeling is actually pretty normal. This is wiki talks about the cycle of cultural adjustment for study abroad programs, but we used a similar graph when talking about our students, because in many ways starting college requires a cultural adjustment. She's at one of the "holy shit, what have I gotten myself into?" stages, but there's going to be an "OMG this is awesome!!" stage as well.

(Also, she might not be an introvert. Being shy /= being an introvert. Drawing strength and energy from being by yourself = being an introvert. I'm only saying this because I'm a person who's an introvert and who has (mostly) overcome my shyness. The social skills necessary to make friends and play well with others can be learned, but in my experience many people who describe themselves as introverts think of their shyness, social anxiety, or self-consciousness as being an innate part of their introversion. It's not. If she's willing to learn and to put herself out there, she'll figure that out on her own.)
posted by spunweb at 8:08 PM on September 7, 2013 [8 favorites]

You sound like a really awesome dad! She is lucky to have such strong home support!

Your advice to her to knit in the common area is excellent--no knitter I know (I'm including myself) can resist talking to someone working on a knitting project in public.

From the sounds of her text it sounds like maybe she feels shy about inviting herself along with a group--maybe let her know it's ok to ask people, "Hey, when are you planning to go for dinner? I'll meet up with you!"

On preview: seconding everything spunweb said about being an introvert.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:11 PM on September 7, 2013

Yes, go home. You can offer her support from there and be sympathetic to her early struggles. But, please do not do what my roommate's mother did. B called her mother every day (long distance. pre-cell phone!) because she was homesick. Cried every night for a year. Her mother, instead of offering ideas or support about how to adjust, make friends or just cheering her on with "you can do it" pep talks, said variations of, "Oh, B, if you can't do it or can't stand, you can come home. We will take care of you..." Her mother undermined her confidence in her ability to be independent and to grow up. B went home every single weekend, made no effort to find friends or activities; just went to class and cried. She bailed out after the first year; surprised she lasted that long. She moved home, went to the hometown college, and never moved farther than 30 miles from her mother.

Over protection is no gift, especially at this stage. It is heartbreaking to hear your child is "standing alone at a carnival," but you are not who she needs to be talking to while she is at the carnival. She is an emerging adult and you can no longer make everything better. As others have said, she needs these skills--how to enter a group, find a conversation, develop friendships, and more. College can help because of the variety of people and activities. She will find her people, but not if she doesn't even try because she knows you are there. Provide the long distance encouragement and cheerleading, but let her go, with a little push. Resist the urge to be the one to call her everyday; encourage her to report her successes and celebrate that, but don't be the crutch that prevents her from moving forward.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 8:14 PM on September 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

Nthing all the comments and advice above (this was me, leave now, don't hover, she will make friends and/or learn to be alone).

A kind thing my parents did for me my first year away from home is come up with some (in retrospect, barely plausible) reason it made sense for me to come home for a visit Halloween weekend. It wasn't planned long in advance, and they had never mentioned the idea that they were at all concerned about me or that they thought I might be homesick -- and there certainly wasn't any suggestion that I would do anything except go right back after the two days -- but it was a nice little break in a difficult semester and a way to demonstrate both to them and me that I really was going to be OK.

Take care; I suspect things will look very different two months from now.
posted by teditrix at 8:28 PM on September 7, 2013

Definitely leave. I went to college eight hours away from home. I am also shy and kind of awkward. My mom, stepdad, brother, and boyfriend drove me up to school, stayed the night and left the next day. I felt abandoned and wanted to beg them to stay. I cried every day for two weeks. By the time Labor Day came around (my school started in mid-August), I had a gaggle of friends and ended up having an AMAZING freshman year. I didn't go to any frat parties or drink at all (not my thing) and it was brilliant.

Suggest to her that she keep her dorm room door open sometimes. That will encourage people to stop in. (Some dorm floors are friendly and others aren't.) Suggesting that she knit in public is GREAT advice. I second that knitters are genetically unable to pass another knitter without comment. Also, people may come up to her and wistfully say they wish they knew how to knit, etc., etc.

You sound like a great dad.
posted by Aquifer at 9:12 PM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

It is stuff like she texted me "my whole house went to dinner without me" that breaks my heart!

Her housemates are not responsible for inviting her places. She is responsible for learning how to include herself. Do not hinder that learning process by empathizing with her too much. The longer she affirms some kind of "I'm the victim because I'm shy" consciousness, the more quickly that will turn into some self-fulfilling prophecy. Affirm to her that she can do this and then step back.

You're being a great dad.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:04 PM on September 7, 2013 [10 favorites]

You're in no position to lead her around by the hand anymore, but you can definitely help her help herself. The school probably has an office of student life: encourage her to check it out. The school's health center probably offers peer counseling: encourage her to sign up. She is a knitter and may have other interests: she doesn't need to wait for the student group fair to check it out. A college can be a fantastic place to build a support network quickly and relatively easily. There are people who will help her feel better. Yes, ten years ago I went to the "club night" during freshman orientation and stood in a corner for three hours feeling desperately alone (and I would still do the same thing in that situation). But then I found stuff on campus that I actually liked to do.
posted by Nomyte at 11:44 PM on September 7, 2013

It is stuff like she texted me "my whole house went to dinner without me" that breaks my heart!

Aw, that sucks. Girls are mean. If you think it will make her feel better, you can share this story: when I was a desperately lonely freshman, my RA threw herself a gigantic birthday party which included dinner at a restaurant, cake, and god knows what else. She made it a point to invite all of the girls who lived on the floor...except me. They made a HUGE deal of it on Facebook and stuff, both before and after the Big Day. Luckily, I thought it was hilarious and I think that for me, it was the turning point in my freshman experience, as I realized I didn't actually want to be friends with any of these people. Like, what kind of terrible person signs up to be an RA on a freshman floor and then does things like that?

I found it helpful to do homework in the common room on my floor rather than in my room. It's a good place to find people who actually want to do homework, and you have a ready excuse to strike up a conversation. Plus, a study break is a great reason to go grab a snack or do something else that will help her get to know her hallmates.

I bet she'll find her people soon. It is really rough at first, though, and I sympathize with her.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 2:52 AM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not much left to add here except to say that it will (should) get easier once classes start, because that will fill her time and give her lots more opportunities to meet people in a more natural fashion rather than the forced socialization of orientation.

As the mother of a college sophomore, I would also recommend *not* being available occasionally when the phone calls or texts in ALL CAPS OMG WITH LOTS OF !!!!!!! come in. You both will be amazed that, a few hours later, whatever seemed so urgent at the time suddenly isn't anymore.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 5:20 AM on September 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

I went to college extremely close to home, but lived in the dorms. I moved in, found out the people I'd been assigned to room with had all been switched around and I was living with 3 juniors, terror of terrors!

I sat alone in my room and cried for about an hour after my parents left, then I made a list of all the freshman in the dorm and decided I needed to spend the next 4 days meeting at least one of them a day. I met one of my still-best friends the next day (as in, she was the one non-family member in our wedding party, and I'm in her wedding in a few weeks, we talk weekly even though we now live 1800 miles apart), although this was due to a few things:

1) I made an effort to engage with people. This was new to me, I was used to having friends who suggested things and set the plans. I wasn't very good at this at first, and ended up doing a lot of crashing on people watching TV in their rooms, asking if they wanted to eat dinner in the cafeteria together (I could deal with breakfast and even lunch solo, but dinner alone felt sad -- if no one was available, I would invite myself to sit at tables with empty chairs).
2) I didn't say no unless something seemed unsafe (I decided to try anything once, including one awful game of ultimate frisbee, but I didn't go to the park at midnight with a group of guys I'd just met to try out frolf) (Was everything frisbee-related the first week?! oh, 2002)
3) I made sure to leave my cell phone in my room sometimes. This is 2002, I had a nokia candybar that I played a LOT of snake on, no long distance calling, and a girlfriend in school 4 hours away. I had to set boundaries so that I could make connections with new people. I can imagine this has only gotten worse, and in fact I catch myself doing this now-- I'm at an event, expressly with the purpose to meet people, and here I am texting my mom or my wife or my best friend or playing a game and I catch myself and put my phone down and recommit to being present in the moment.
4) this came later in my college career: It is ok to not engage with people who are toxic to you. It's better to be alone than to hang out with people who make you feel like Less Than.
5) this also came later: do what you want, even if you're flying solo! No one you know wants to go to see the midnight movie this week? Go alone, talk to at least one person there, and go home feeling sophisticated and mysterious.

Best of luck to you and your daughter!
posted by worstname at 7:44 AM on September 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

I actually have a different reason you should leave. Everyone else has covered the 'cut the cord' angle. But the other side is that she might actually be signaling to her peers that she is unavailable because she has to take care of you, meet up with you for meals, soothe YOUR emotional turmoil by spending time with you.
Her dormmates undoubtedly know that you are around, and they might be assuming that your kid has plans. With you. And if she is isn't at lunch or dinner, she misses the plan-making that happens there.
posted by janell at 9:56 AM on September 8, 2013 [7 favorites]

Glad you're going home, as you've received some excellent advice. And now... a warning:

I'd pass on to your daughter to not be set in stone. Once she starts to make some friends, DON'T feel like you have to stay with those friends if you start to realize they're not a great fit out of fear that you won't make more.

My initial friendships in college - when I was desperately homesick and lonely - we're not the right people for me, and looking back were bad influences. I stuck around them due to proximity and having someone to 'hang' with, when in fact there was a whole world out there I should have been exploring. The only thing that got me out of that bad situation was that they all eventually dropped out of school with bad grades.

Let her fly, but tell her to watch out for the hawks.
posted by matty at 10:33 AM on September 8, 2013 [6 favorites]

Don't be scared if she doesn't make any firends. It took me until almos tthe end of the first year to make 1 friend. I had a lot of acquaintances and i made a point to do activities with other students, but i didn't make a real friend until almost teh end of the year.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:16 AM on September 9, 2013

I was the kid who was shy and awkward and at a huge state school and who had no friends and hands off parents, panicked at the beginning and ending of every semester with no help for moving, stuck it out for three years and still has only a degree and a couple acquaintance Facebook friends to show for my years at university. I didn't find My People until I did a lot of personal effort and therapy and then joined AmeriCorps a few years after leaving University.

After three years, I finished my last two classes from home via correspondence and credit transfer. I double majored and my out-of-state tuition debt is now 100% paid, so that ain't nothing.

A few thoughts: This is one of those problems that is inside your zone of concern but outside your zone of control. You need to let go and have faith that your daughter will sort it out in her own time and in her own way.

As a parent, be available but not too available. Have office hours and be available for true emergencies but discourage in-the-moment "this carnival is so lonely" texting. Your daughter needs to be self-soothing. If she has you to fall back on, she won't pressure herself to grow.

Speaking of office hours, your daughter should go to office hours for every prof every term, even if she is setting the curve in the class (heck, especially then!) The "adults" are just as valuable social contacts as the other students.

Also, dorm choice matters. If there is a specialty dorm or an honors dorm that your daughter qualifies for, that can really help to join a smaller community within the larger community. I scoffed at filling out another application my first year but joined the honors dorm my third year and wished I had done so sooner.

The awesome thing about developing a skill like active listening is that you can coach anyone through anything, even those things that you yourself suck at! (http://psychcentral.com/lib/become-a-better-listener-active-listening/0001299) The other person has the answers and you're just a catalyst to help them get there.

Looking back, I missed a lot of opportunities because I was too stressed out to "just say yes." I quit an evening club because I didn't think I could do it and also 8 am calculus, only to find out way late in the semester that every one in the club was using club time as study hall for the class. I wrote on and off for the student paper and I was offered to take over a personal beat from the most respected student reporter when he became news editor and I turned it down. An acquaintance was the Op-Ed editor and I could have asked for a column but never did. When I was winding down my involvement with the paper, Douglas Adams came to town and the cub reporter who interviewed him didn't even know the correct titles of his books.

I never knew to ask for a new acquaintance's email or phone number (and then to use that contact). I spent all three years hoping to run into that girl who looked just like Felicity again. Sigh.

Now, you don't have any control over those types of decisions, but through reflection and open-ended inquiry like active listening, you can help your daughter come to revelations like the ones I had to come to way faster than if she had been working these problems on her own.

Just remember to set aside time for these talks. It's too easy for remote supporters to become a crutch as one spends too much time talking on the phone, texting or Facebooking.

And yeah, you gotta leave town. Physically and mentally.
posted by Skwirl at 3:49 PM on September 9, 2013

Response by poster: Hey everyone obviously I have been traveling but we left on Sunday as expected and sure enough she seems a bit better I would love to comment on every piece of great advice from everyone and I hope other parents look at this if they have the same sort of issues. We got stuck in a small town due to weather but today THE WORST text was "I have 6 hours till class I am bored" where my advice was... "In a month remember how nice it was having so little to do" :) Thanks again all!
posted by mrgroweler at 7:42 PM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Hi, I'm coming to this a bit late but I definitely think you should encourage her to sign up for clubs and such. My school had an "activities expo" where all the clubs had booths and you could meet them and sign up for their email lists. This is how I got into the college radio station, which was my home for the rest of undergrad and grad school.
posted by radioamy at 5:35 PM on September 11, 2013

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