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Barbara Wasserman, LICSW Headshot

7 Tips for the Summer Before College Drop-off

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COLLEGE STUDENT MOVES HOME
Fuse via Getty Images

Congratulations, Mom, you have made it through your child's senior year of high school. It has been a long year of test-taking, college visits, essays, applications, waiting for decisions and finally, picking a college. It has also been a year of lasts: last recital, soccer game, report card, prom and ultimately, graduation. Your child's life is going to change dramatically; yours is, too.

This summer will be very busy as you prepare your graduate for college drop off. There will be numerous trips to Bed Bath and Beyond (especially if you have a daughter), Staples, Best Buy and the mall. You might be giving tutorials in laundry, cooking check-writing and budgeting to your graduate. You will be very aware of the limited time before he/she leaves and might plan a family vacation. You will soak in as much of you child as you can.

But what about you? What do you need to do to prepare for your child's departure?

Personally, I planned for the eventuality of my own empty next with my usual sense of preparedness. In spite of all my forethought, I was caught off-guard often and at unexpected moments. I was surprised when my girls were not just a shout away, down the hallway in their rooms or in the kitchen. I was blind-sided, and their absence was all the more profound. It was then I realized that I would have to do some adjusting and try some new things, as well.

For example:

1. With my girls gone, who is going to tell me when my outfit doesn't work?
"Mom you can't walk out the door wearing that," was a pretty commonplace comment in my household, since I have three daughters. After a few fashion mishaps, I solved that problem by enlisting some stylish friends to help me out. And truth be told, I have been known to text a fashion "selfie" to one of my daughters in an emergency.

2. How am I going to program new shows into the DVR?
There are enough changes in my life without missing Homeland and Madm Men. Maybe I need to trade a laundry lesson for a DVR lesson over the next school break.

3. And, ahh, technology. How do I turn a word document into a PDF or send an attachment to an email?
I've worked with a coach for some of my technology needs, and adult education classes are available at many local high schools, including my own.

How far have I come? I recently scanned an old baby picture and posted it to my 27-year-old daughter's Facebook page on her birthday. She was pretty impressed. So was I. A word of warning: Don't do that to your college student without asking first. He/she is still at the age where that might embarrass them. There are "etiquette" rules to social media, so be sure to ask your teen/young adult where they are comfortable connecting with you online.

4. Will I finally be able to sleep through the night without worrying about where my kids are?
Here was a big surprise: I had fantasized about how easily I would fall asleep without having to listen for the garage door to open, signaling everyone was home safe. Didn't happen.

5. What will you do after the drop off?
All of a sudden, time was a giant void, a vacuum. So fill it! Plan something fun after you say goodbye. Some parents go on a road trip after the drop off. Sometimes it is easier to take some time before you go back to your quieter home. Or, you can be a tourist in your own city. Get tickets to local events for the week after the drop off. You won't be sorry for pampering yourself a little bit. After all, it's a huge change for you, too.

6. What will you have to look forward to in the fall, now that academic calendars don't govern your life?
For years, fall has meant new beginnings. Now the new beginnings can be yours. Make a dream list. Write down one thing every day this summer that intrigues you, interests or excites you. Perhaps it is learning the piano, journaling, doing pottery, joining a book club or volunteering for a new charity. Pick one to start in the fall. Sign up before the drop off.

One last piece of advice: Think about how often and in what way you intend to communicate with your college freshman. Your expectations and his/hers may be very different. Have a conversation with your child before he or she leaves. Find out what type of communication they are expecting, and how often is comfortable for them. For example, do they want you to contact them or do they want you to wait to hear from them? Let them know what you were thinking, work with them to come up with a plan that makes both of you comfortable. Remember that most high schoolers think that a quick text is keeping in contact while most parents still want phone calls.

We all react differently to our children going off to college. Some of us have a smooth transition, others take a while to enjoy the benefits of an empty nest or even just one empty bedroom. Some of us do well at the beginning and have a stronger reaction later on. I launched three children and had different reactions each time. There are no rules here.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to have positive connections with other women who are going through the same experience. Two years ago I created "After the College Drop-Off." It is a one-night program where you get to laugh, cry, connect and get a lot of support from other women having similar experiences. You also create your first year SURVIVAL guide. The response was so good (all the programs sold out) that I have decided to offer it again in September. Email me at Barbara@barbarawassermancoaching.com for information or to reserve your spot.