Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Parent Struggles With Becoming Empty Nester

DEAR HARRIETTE: My son is going to leave for college in a week, after he spent a gap year living at home, working and learning how to code. He’s my only son, and having him out the house will be a huge change for me and my husband. How would you adjust to having your child away from your home for the first time? -- Empty Nester

DEAR EMPTY NESTER: Our job as parents is to prepare our children to leave our homes and live independently; still, letting go remains one of the most challenging experiences for most parents. On one hand, you want to hold them extra close and love them up. On the other, it is your duty to give them the freedom to grow into their adult selves.

Expect high emotions in the first few days after your son leaves. Agree with your husband that you both may be extra sensitive to random things, and this is natural. Choose to fill your time with activities that both of you enjoy. Go out to dinner. Visit with friends. Have a movie night at home where you cuddle up and watch something entertaining.

Schedule your days and weeks so that you fill the space that your son once occupied. This will help you to grow accustomed to a new rhythm in your household. Take it one day at a time. This is no easy adjustment, but you can do it.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have known this friend of mine for a couple of years now, and he constantly takes advantage of people close to him. I am not sure if I should continue being friends with this guy. He really needs to be a better person to the people who consider him a friend.

I think the reason he acts this way is because he has issues with his family. I know him well enough to have seen him constantly having fights with his siblings and parents. I think when he gets upset with them, he takes it out on us. But I’m done with that. How can I get him to stop? -- Dealing With Bad Friend

DEAR DEALING WITH BAD FRIEND: Get clear on exactly what this friend is doing that you don’t like. What does it mean specifically that he is taking advantage of you and your friends? You need to identify the behavior, then bring it up with him.

The best way to handle this is directly. Tell your friend that you do not like the way he has been treating you. Give him examples so that it is crystal clear what you are talking about. Tell him you care about him and want to be his friend, but this unacceptable behavior has to stop.

Tread lightly when talking about the reasons for his actions. You should not bring up his bad family dynamics. You can ask him why he thinks he does the things he does to people he says are his friends. Listen to see if he has any inkling of what he’s doing and what his responsibility is to that end.

If he is unwilling or unable to stop the abusive behavior, you may have to back off for a while.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)