Comfortable with the Uncomfortable ≠ Suffering

Dear Harlan: My daughter loves overnight camp, but it’s exclusive and there are a lot of mean girls. However, some are very nice. She can’t give it a year to adjust because overnight camp is only two months. She has a choice next year: She can go back to overnight camp and face the uncomfortable, or stay home and hang out with her school friends. She is struggling with the decision. She doesn’t seem to want to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. What should she do?

— Too Uncomfortable

Dear Too Uncomfortable:  She doesn’t need to spend eight more weeks and thousands of dollars to be tormented by mean girls. She should find girls she wants to be around. Have her identify three other camps that look interesting. Suggest she talk to people at these camps who can answer her questions (the director, counselors, CITs or campers). If she absolutely loves the camp from last year, but not the mean girls, suggest she talk to the professionals who run the camp and see if there are other cabins or options. The reality is that mean girls go to lots of camps. She needs a plan and people in her corner. Changing camps isn’t quitting; it’s using her past experiences to help her find the right people and places next summer. Facing the truth and getting comfortable with the uncomfortable takes strength. She should feel nothing but pride. Tell her I said so.

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First Year A Rough Start; Stick It Out or Move On?

sad depressed lonely adolescent teen boy

Dear Harlan: My son is a freshman in college. He has had a rough semester. His roommate was a nightmare. The roommate drank at all hours and brought home overnight guests. He had no regard for my son or his early-A.M. classes. My son’s grades have suffered; he used to be in the top of his class. He has made some friends, but not close friends. He wants to transfer to an out-of-state school that is far less competitive but closer to his friends and girlfriend. We want him to stick it out at his current school for at least a year. How hard should we push for him to stick it out? He is so unsure of himself. We want him to be strong, but we don’t want him to give up. He worked so hard to get into his current school. What should we do to support him?

— Another Mom

Dear Another Mom:  Listen. Parents forget to listen. Some students need a break. It can be mentally, physically and emotionally grueling to go from being a straight-A high school student to being average at a highly competitive college. It’s even harder without a support system in place. Sure, I like experiencing a full year to work through the uncomfortable, but sometimes that’s too much. Have him talk to a counselor at school, and a therapist. Encourage him to speak to upperclassmen, too. Suggest that he put together a plan of what will be different at the next school. The transfer plan should include places where he’ll find connections, people he will connect with, and a timeline. His girlfriend can be one of his people, but he needs to have at least four other people. Once he has a transition plan in place, he can start to practice some of the steps at his current school. Maybe he can finish out the year. There’s nothing to gain from being miserable and alone at an ultra-competitive school versus thriving at a school where he has passion and a plan. Let him know that whatever he decides, you will always support him.

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Missing friend is tearing her up

Sad lonely student sitting on stairs in college Dear Harlan: I am extremely introverted and while not shy, my social skills are lacking. I have trouble making friends and I usually end up making a total dunce out of myself. I had a pretty good friend named “Roy.” Roy was a lazy freeloader who didn’t have a driver’s license and didn’t want to do anything except play video games (he’s in his mid-20s). I put up with this because he was my friend (and I like video games, too). About two years ago, toward the end of a really rough semester, combined with a horrible week when I was dosed with medication because I was ill, I did something completely out of character. I ripped him on Facebook. This started a fight with his family (who still hate me) and a whole other mess. It has been about two years now, and I haven’t heard from him. Unfortunately, I miss him. I really know I shouldn’t. I don’t know if I’m just lonely — despite my best efforts to make more friends since then — or what. I’m not sure if it’s him I miss, or just having a friend who was around often — even if he wasn’t a good one. I can’t stop thinking about him. It’s driving me nuts because it hurts. I was just hoping you would have some sort of answer besides “make more friends,” which doesn’t seem to be working. – Lonely

Dear Lonely: Something is off. When you can’t connect with friends and have never been able to connect, it’s a bigger issue. You need an evaluation from a mental-health professional who specializes in social disorders. You might confuse social cues, have a hard time with non-verbal communication or have a problem filtering what to say and what not say. Get evaluated,  find answers, then find more friends.

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