Savoring Those Last Moments With Your College-Bound Kid

Parents everywhere are preparing for the imminent departure of their soon-to-be college kids. Some parents are shedding tears of sorrow and some (if not most) are crying tears of joy as the unending power struggle between parent and child comes to a close – at least until fall break.

When my oldest was a high school senior I remember thinking that he could not leave soon enough. Every day was a battle and every fight was punctuated by the words, “I can’t wait to get out of this place!” I don’t know what my son was saying because I was yelling those words so loudly that the neighbors started to ask where I was going and when I was leaving.

But seriously, my son could not wait to leave and every day –sometimes every hour – I had to remind him that although he would be going to college soon and I wouldn’t know where he was or what he was doing while he was living at home we still had rules, which included being civil to everyone around him.

College couldn’t come soon enough.

Senior year in high school and the summer right before college is a time when kids really start to separate from their parents. They are testing out their independence to ready themselves for the moment when mom and dad will no longer be there to guide them – except via text at all hours of the day and night.

This separation is known in parenting circles as “soiling the nest,” (not literally, in case you are worried). As kids try to come to terms with the idea of leaving the comforts of home and deal with their uneasiness about entering “adulthood” they develop a swagger, an I-don’t-need-my-parents façade to mask their nervousness with the transition. Instead of wallowing in their anxiety and sorrow they tend to separate messily and make everyone involved want to shove them out of the tree (not literally, in case you are worried).

I worry about this phenomenon as my youngest son starts his senior year of high school. Even though I know what may (I’m optimistic) be coming, I will still be shocked and saddened when my usually polite, sweet child tries to push the limits of our house rules and the limits of my patience. I really don’t want to spend this year fighting with him, resenting him and wishing him away.

And, yet, that seems to be the norm come the end of August.

So how do you make the most out of the little time you have left before your kid goes to college? (And don’t say, avoid him at all costs). 

Even if the last thing you want to do is spend another second with your kid, believe me, when you are ugly crying at drop off you will wish you did.

Here are some ideas from seasoned moms about how to spend those final weeks, days and hours with your kid before they start college:

  1. Invite another friend and his/her mom for a lunch, a mani/pedi, a baseball game, a movie – whatever your kid is into. Tell your kid it was the other mom’s idea if that will get him to go.
  2. Enforce a mandatory dinner – at least one. Include your kid’s friends if that makes it easier. Whatever it takes.
  3. Sneak in a family game night, even if “family” includes friends. Board games not your family’s thing? Play tennis, go to a movie, go golfing, go for a bike ride, just do something with the family. Feel free to riff on this line: “Your little/older sister/brother is going to miss you a lot so maybe we can all go to a movie/dinner/football game so you can spend time with her.”
  4. Use the family pet as a bargaining chip and “suggest” your son or daughter join you for a few walks around the block with the dog/cat/pet rat to ease the pet’s transition.
  5. Go shopping. Bribery works.
  6. If your child surprises you by sidling up to you and chatting pleasantly, don’t do a double take and say something like, “Now there’s the sweet boy I know. Where have you been?” which can only lead to your baby bird reverting to his vulture self. Instead, as my friend, Kim, said, “Pull up a chair and enjoy the moment because it’s probably all you are going to get.”
  7. And, if you are down to the wire and it’s move-in day eve, splurge on a movie and room service if you are in a hotel. My older son and I did this before his freshman year and it became a tradition of ours. It was 2+ hours of uninterrupted time together. When I take him back this year – the last year of his college move-in days – we plan to do the same thing. Sure, room service and an in-room movie are ridiculously expensive but those 2 hours are worth every penny to me.


Any other thoughts for spending time with your college-bound kid?



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