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    Ask Amy

    Daughter struggles with self-esteem at college

    Q. My beautiful, talented, intelligent, and sensitive daughter just started college after taking a gap year. She is so happy in school. However, she has never had an official boyfriend and feels she never will have that kind of relationship because, somehow, she believes she is flawed. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and no matter what I tell her, there is no satisfying her, and she is so sad. She has been in therapy but has discontinued it since starting college. Do you have suggestions on what I can do/say to help her know that things will shift for her?

    Concerned Mom

    A. Many beautiful, talented, intelligent, and sensitive people starting college have not had serious relationships yet — one of my daughters jokingly called herself “the spinster” because she had never had a real boyfriend, something that changed before her first year was over.

    Your daughter wants those connections that we all crave. Unfortunately, you can’t automatically fix this. You have told her over and over that she is incredible; she just has to start believing it. As she finds her footing in school and meets other young women who are as wonderful as she is, she may begin to see herself differently.


    However, college life presents outsize challenges and triggers for people with self-esteem issues. She really should continue her therapy. Colleges have counselors available to students. She should visit the student health center for a referral.

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    Q. I’ve been with my boyfriend for a year. I’ve been friends with his older sister for almost 10 years — she set us up.

    I heard from their mother that his sister was telling family members that I’ve had several relationships, which is true. She also said that I get bored easily in relationships, which is why I leave — that was the biggest lie I had ever heard. I have confided in her throughout the years about the mistreatment in previous relationships. The fact that she told her family members I get bored and leave truly upset me.

    I calmed down and a few days later I called and left a nice voice mail asking to talk. No response. Then I sent her a very nice text. Once again, no response. I finally messaged her on Facebook. She read the message, but never responded. After that, I stopped trying to contact her and assumed our friendship annulled.

    She’s started talking to me again like a friend, though she hasn’t brought up what happened before. I am leery to open up to her because, quite honestly, why would she have told her family those things in the first place? How should I handle this situation?



    A. I know how upsetting it can be to have someone spread lies about you, but you need to stop pursuing this person for explanations; you have asked three times and gotten no response, and now you have to let this go.

    There could be many reasons why she might lie to her family: They were being nosy and she didn’t know how to tell them the truth, she’s in the CIA and had to lie to protect her cover, or she’s a disrespectful liar and she just felt like doing it. While it would be nice if liars provided their victims with detailed explanations, that rarely happens.

    All you can do now is move forward. Be civil, and extremely cautious about confiding anything. Ever. Accept that you may never get a reason for her duplicity (or that any reason you get may be a lie), and downgrade this from a friendship to a civil relationship.

    Q. We vaccinate our children. There was a mistake at the doctor’s office and one of my sons missed a vaccine. Due to what I guess was just very bad luck, he was exposed to one of the illnesses the vaccine should have prevented.

    We spent the next two days in the hospital, basically under quarantine. We do NOT know when or where he was exposed, only that he was, and it was a very serious threat to his health.


    Please encourage vaccinations and careful monitoring of the health of those too young to be protected.

    Aware Parent

    A. I am team-vaccination. We are so fortunate to have access to vaccines; I can’t believe this has become at all controversial.

    Amy Dickinson can be reached at