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Change requires sensitivity and time for adjustment

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Dear Ella,

I’m so aggravated I could scream.

My son left for university and is living in residence. This is a huge step for him, as it’s the first time he is away from home and fending for himself.

We have done everything we can think of to make his transition smooth, right down to homemade packaged meals. All I have asked of him is to call me a couple of times a day. Even a text will do. I need to have a short conversation with him so I’m assured everything we have put in place is working, but he continuously ignores my calls, voice messages and texts. My husband says I should leave him alone.

I’m feeling helpless. I never had this problem with my daughter.

Not Asking Too Much

Dear Not Asking Too Much

Actually, this is a huge step for both of you. You’ve been preparing him for this moment his entire life.

In your mind, asking for communication a couple of times a day is an incredibly small gesture, considering all you’ve sacrificed to get him where he is today.

You have done your best to raise him with every tool he will need to become an independent, contributing adult. You aren’t asking all that much in return. Right?

Actually you are. Let’s have a look at this from your son’s perspective. He’s in a huge school with thousands of strangers. He’s living with new people, and probably new cultures, new surroundings and a new schedule. His family is not there to bail him out every step of the way, so he has to etch a place for himself in this unfamiliar community of his peers. His mind must move forward, and in order to do this, his life with you has to take a back seat.

It’s not due to a deliberate lack of respect or love. It’s because he can’t advance if you’re always in his head. You must let him fly and make his own triumphs and mistakes. Make a reasonable schedule where he needs to touch base and update you once or twice a week.

Don’t compare him to your daughter. Each of your kids are individuals. Girls sometimes chat with their moms more than boys do. As hard as it is, take a step back and be proud of all you’ve accomplished.  He’s grown up.


Dear Ella,

I have accepted a new job in California. We didn’t make this decision lightly as we have two girls, 9 and 12, who are both very angry about this move. I get it. They are happy in their lives with friends and school. We’re uprooting them, and the guilt I’m feeling is overwhelming. My husband says they’ll get over it, and I know eventually they will, but right now our family is in turmoil. The crying and drama are unbearable. If you can think of anything to make this easier, please share.

Moving Mess

Dear Moving Mess

Kids at that age typically can’t understand the bigger picture. You are removing them from the only life they know. They have no other frame of reference and are too young to care about anything other than that their safe world is being torn away. They’re scared.

Try to make this transition less traumatic by involving them in the move. The unknown is frightening for anyone, so try to take as much of that away as possible. Do a walk-about through your new neighbourhood using Google maps. You can zoom in on your new home. Show nearby parks and attractions. Use your computer to take a visit to their new school. Give them a visual. Show them their new rooms using the photos in the real estate listing. Let them pack a special box with their important items and discuss decorating their rooms.

Once you’re there, work on their rooms first before organizing the rest of the house. Be sensitive to their signals and provide lots of reassurance. When possible keep the focus on the positive and fun parts of moving.