Dos and Don’ts for the Summer Before Freshman Year

Some advice for parents on how to survive these anxiety-ridden months.

by Anne Vaccaro Brady

No matter how excited or laid back your teenager seems about heading to college in the fall, a level of anxiety is sitting below the surface. You’re probably dealing with similar feelings. As the parent, you need to minimize your family’s apprehension. Here’s how.

Try to relax Remember you’re not the first family to experience a child going off to college. Haven’t all of your friends survived? Worrying wastes energy and will keep you from enjoying the summer. Besides, you have a good 8-10 weeks before you need to pack up the car.

friends1Allow your teen plenty of time with her friends She’s going to miss you, but all she can focus on now is the fact that come fall, she won’t see her friends for months. Understand what she’s feeling, and make the most of the time she gives you.

Buy summer clothes Most colleges start classes in August, when it’s hot and often steamy in most parts of the country. Fill in any missing pieces now before the fall fashions hit the racks.

While you’re at it, pick up a fan in case your student’s dorm isn’t air-conditioned.

Teach your freshman how to do laundry, make a bed and clean a bathroom The last one may surprise you, but if your student ends up in a suite with a private bathroom, he’ll be responsible for cleaning it. Take the time to instruct him now to save yourself from viewing a scary sight Parents’ Weekend.

If you’re still washing his clothes and making his bed, now’s the time to pass the baton, whether he’s staying home or going away.

Address the issues specific to your commuter student Start discussing how house rules will change in the fall. You’ll have a college student living at home, who’ll soon be an 18-year-old legal adult, if she isn’t already.

Figure out commuting options. Check out available public transportation. If a car was part of the package when she chose to stay home, start shopping now. Review campus parking rates, too.

Stay on top of e-mails from the college Encourage your teen to do the same. Colleges send almost everything by e-mail now, and a lot of those messages are time-sensitive.

Consider setting up an e-mail account exclusively for college mail that both you and your student can access.

Nag about getting ready for college Again, this goes back to the anxiety issue. Of course, once the back-to-college sales begin, usually in July, start shopping for the extra-long sheets, towels, etc. The point is, don’t make the whole summer about prepping to leave.

Insist on more family time You’ll only make your teenager want to spend less time with you. Instead, plan for everyone to be a part of a couple of family dinners each week.

Continue family activities like going on vacation together, taking in a movie or going to a ballgame or concert if that’s the normal dynamic for your household. Don’t suddenly add a bunch of events to make up for lost time because she’ll see right through that move.

Accept that the siblings might want some time together, too, without Mom and Dad.

Share your own anxiety or repeatedly mention how much you’re going to miss him You might make your kid feel guilty for going away and that’s not fair. Remember, as parents, our job is to raise our children to be able to leave the nest some day.

packed boxes3Announce your plans to turn his bedroom into your exercise room At this point in the process, kids want to know that home will still be home when they come back. They need that sense of security.

Plan to move, unless your job requires relocation Moving out of town once your teenager heads off to college will have a big impact when she comes home for breaks and the summer. Besides adjusting to a new home she won’t have anyone to hang out with because all of her friends will be together back in her hometown.

Take a deep breath. The summer before freshman year can be fun if you approach it correctly.

Please share your own advice on how to handle this special summer in the comments section below.

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