Amy: Empty nest is lonely

  • Article by: AMY DICKINSON
  • August 19, 2013 - 1:14 PM

Dear Amy: My daughter recently left for college, and I am having a difficult time with her not being around. I am proud of her and excited about this new chapter she is starting, but I am sad about her absence.

I continually hear from family members and friends that I “should be happy for her.” They say, “Stop crying; she will be fine,” or my favorite: “You have to be strong for her.”

I find this condescending.

How can I politely tell them that I need time to adjust and that this is difficult for me? We are very close.

Amy says: Your friends and family members seem to misunderstand why you are sad and emotional. You are not crying for your daughter; you are crying for yourself.

And — this is completely normal. You and your daughter are both experiencing a huge life transition. Ultimately, this will yield unexpected joys and challenges to both of you. What you must not do is impose your emotional response onto your daughter.

In life, it is the child’s job to leave the nest. The parent’s burden is to let her leave, and to celebrate her independence in stages. Do not share your feelings with people who are unsympathetic or judgmental, but instead with people (in person or online) who share your perspective and can offer support. Read “Letting Go (Fifth Edition): A Parents’ Guide to Understanding the College Years,” by Karen Levin Coburn and Madge Lawrence Treeger (2009, Harper Perennial).

If you find that you are extremely upset on a daily basis or that your depression and sadness don’t abate over time, you should pursue professional counseling to better understand and process your emotions. Tackling this successfully will be good for you and will model balanced and mature behavior for your college student.

Kids and restrooms

Dear Amy: Last month my twin grandchildren (one boy, one girl) turned 5 years old.

Their mother has decided it’s time for them to use restaurant bathrooms by themselves.

I was upset when she told me. I think they are too young to use a public bathroom alone.

My objection wasn’t due to whether they could/would wipe themselves, flush the toilets, wash their hands, etc., but was due to a safety issue.

My daughter-in-law said she wanted to give them more responsibility, and so she waits outside the restroom when they are using it.

In the state where I live there have been problems with older boys (or men) sexually assaulting (or murdering) children when they are left unattended in public bathrooms. (I’m talking about bathrooms with more than one stall and men’s restrooms with urinals and not the “for families” type.)

At what age do you think children can use a public restroom by themselves?

Amy says: I agree with you that 5 is too young to use a public restroom alone. One (relatively minor) reason is that I don’t know any 5-year-olds who can reach the sink or soap dispenser to wash hands after using the toilet.

Parents must be extremely cautious when sending their children into public restrooms by themselves. A restaurant might be a slightly safer environment than a state park, beach or stadium because a mother could (and should) check a small men’s room to make sure no one else is using it and then stand outside the door and wait while the child uses it.

I think age 9 is the minimum age to send a child into a public restroom alone. Even at that age a parent should be at the door when the child enters and wait, ready to walk in and check on the child if he/she takes too long.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at

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