DEAR AMY: My daughter, who was a late bloomer, entered into a serious relationship with “Sam” at a school out of state last year when they were both seniors.
They applied to a variety of grad schools (separately and together), but were only mutually accepted by one school in his home state (the same state where they met).
She could have gone to another school in another state with a free ride, but she chose to stay with him and doubled her student loans to do so.
We warned her of the consequences if they break up, but were assured that was never going to happen. Of course, shortly after school started, it did.
Now she feels trapped at a school she never wanted to go to with a debt she feels stupid to have taken on, and feels “broken.”
She pines for the boy as it was her fault they broke up. She’s home now for winter break and she cries all the time. We’ve had talks with her, but I’m at a loss for what to do. -- Broken-Hearted Father
DEAR FATHER: Envelop your daughter in your family embrace while she is with you. Making the kind of choice she made is common at her age, but emphasize to her that any choice she makes can be mitigated through her efforts.
She can heal from this breakup, but first she needs to rediscover herself. Help her explore those things about her school that are positive and urge her to see out the year there in order to give this experience meaning beyond the boyfriend. Let her know that you will help her figure out her next step (including transfer).
Encourage her to get together with hometown friends while she is home. Commiserate by sharing your own similar experiences (if you have them), so she won’t feel alone. She is not a victim, and this was not her fault. This is life.
If your daughter doesn’t seem to pull out of this, even slowly, take her depression and despair seriously. If she ruminates excessively and you become alarmed, make an appointment with a local therapist, and — no matter what — she should check in with her school’s counseling center when she returns to campus.
DEAR AMY: Please, please continue to be an advocate for people getting professional help. You don’t go to therapy because you’re crazy; you go to learn what you don’t know.
My childhood was bad because of mental, emotional and physical abuse. My parents and their siblings were not able to overcome their poor childhoods. My advantage was that I was smart, and I think it helped me to seek and persevere through many years of therapy. I have been able to create a happy life, and I can look forward to a wonderful future.
We are going through some terrible family drama right now, and it is because the rest of the family was unable to do what I did.
I am sorry for all of the hell people go through during the holiday season. Please help them to see it doesn’t have to be this way. -- Come Out Whole
DEAR WHOLE: I advocate for professional counseling because it can (but not always) work wonders. A neutral person who has training and expertise can help decode mysterious family dynamics and conflicts, and counseling need not always be expensive. Clergy can offer therapeutic wisdom and spiritual support, and the local department of children and family services can connect people with qualified social workers and family therapists.
DEAR AMY: “Foreign Tourist” mentioned reading your column and learning about American customs and ethical dilemmas.
I am a middle school teacher. I often bring your column into my classroom and use it as a teaching tool -- both for writing lessons and also to discuss moral situations. -- Middle School Teacher
DEAR TEACHER: I love to visit classrooms, and middle schoolers enjoy writing their own answers to actual questions from my column. They have taught me a lot.