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5 Things Your College Freshman Needs This Summer

Photograph by Twenty20

I know SO many people who are preparing to send their babies off to college next month. Been there, done that ... and doing it again this time next year when my daughter is ready. But in addition to the list of dorm essentials and remembering when tuition is due (cha-ching), there are a few things your teen needs this summer to start her off on this epic journey to adulthood.

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1. Space

They need to pull away from you, and by acting like an ass they are unwittingly making it easier for you to let them go.

Wait, what? It seems a bit counterintuitive to give your teen more space when he is getting ready to leave home in just a few months. I used to think people were nuts when they talked about this. But time and time again, I have seen it happen to friends when their freshman-to-be teens have temporarily morphed into someone from another planet. WTH? It turns out that they need to pull away from you, and by acting like an ass they are unwittingly making it easier for you to let them go. So give them their space before they go—it makes it all so much easier on both of you.

2. Laundry lessons

Maybe your teenager has always pitched in on laundry day or helped around the house with other weekly chores. But many moms I know never really taught some basic living-on-your-own skills—and now it's go time. Whether it's laundry, grocery shopping or just basic cooking skills these are lessons they need now. The first few times they accidentally wash the red jersey with the all-white load they won't have you there to "fix" it. Learning to do all these things on your own is a huge first step to being independent.

3. Family time

If we need to give them space, why also focus on family time? Your child is leaving home, and whether he will attend college one hour from home or halfway across the country, he is leaving home base. While it might be fun to fantasize about turning his room into a craft room or renting it out for the year, remember that your child still considers this her home. Plan a few fun things that everyone in the family enjoys and help cement that family bond. Talk to your teen about how you and the rest of the family will always have his back—and are always just a text away.

4. Advise—but don't be too obvious

See the thing about 18-year-olds is that they know it all. Seriously, all. And by the time they are getting ready to head for college, they aren't really looking for any advice from Mom and Dad. The trick is to take your bits of wisdom and advice and bury them in a funny anecdote from your own college days. Like that time you stayed up all night cramming for a big test, then slept through the first half. They still might not really get the lesson, but you'll feel better for having tried.

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5. Comfort food

Forget your worries about the dreaded "Freshman Fifteen" and share some of your teen's favorite comfort foods all summer long. Before long he'll be eating dorm food and missing Mom's famous mac and cheese or the homemade strawberry ice cream you make every summer at the lake. A good dose of noshing nostalgia never hurt anyone.

So relax, let go of your mom worries, enjoy this last summer before college and be prepared for the big send-off in the fall. It's truly a turning point for both of you.

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