DEAR HARRIETTE: I’m a senior in high school this year, and my sister has just left for college. I’ve already noticed how my parents are becoming attached to me and wanting to spend more time together. They often interrupt me while I’m working and offer to take me out to lunch all the time. I understand that they are probably feeling lonely with my sister out of the house, but I don’t think it should be up to me to fill that void. It’s just too hard. How should I create a healthy distance? -- Healthy Space Needed
DEAR HEALTHY SPACE NEEDED: The next few weeks may feel a bit bumpy as your family adjusts to the new circumstances. It can be difficult for parents when their children leave to go to college or move out to begin their adult lives. On one hand, your parents are mourning the loss of your sister’s presence. On the other, as you suspect, they are clinging ever more tightly to you. If possible, ease them out of this dependency gently. Find natural ways to make space for yourself without outright rejecting their overtures. Remind them that you have homework to complete. Create a schedule that makes it clear to all what requires your focus.
If they don’t seem to be getting the message, sit down with them and remind them of how much you love them and that you know this is a rough time for them. Point out that you have noticed they have become extra clingy, and you need your space, too. Ensure them that you are not rejecting their love when you ask to be alone, to spend time with your friends or whatever else you need to do. Ask for space to just be. Do your best to stay pleasant. This is a tough situation for all. Hopefully, your awareness will help them to ease up.