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Family Life

Last, Best Summer

Guest Contributor

I remember the summer between my daughter’s high school graduation and when she headed to college in the fall. The last summer. I was full of heartache, memories, angst and excitement for what lay behind her and what lay ahead.

What’s a parent to do? How do you turn this “last” summer into the best summer?

Wherever you are on the scale that runs from weepy and sentimental to “ready to kick them out the door,” take comfort in the fact that countless parents have been right where you are and have felt exactly what you feel.

You were consumed with the details of getting through graduation. Now you’ve kicked into high gear to get all they need together for college. You hardly have a minute to think about what a special time this is in the life of your family.

Time to Savor the Moment

It’s time to mentally put on the brakes. Reflect on where you have been and where both you and your child are going. Take a moment now to appreciate all you’ve both accomplished.

He did it. Your student graduated! He’s going to college. This summer, enjoy the fruits of your 18 years of labor. Don’t rush through these summer moments.

Time to Adjust

Things are about to change in a big way for both of you. How do you feel about that? Is your student ready? Are you?

Whether it is your first child going to college or your last, your family will need to adjust to a new normal. Change is hard for many people, but this change can be exhilarating. It’s the fulfillment of a dream you had for your child when she was born. You trained her for this very moment. She’s off on an amazing adventure.

Likewise, you have that same opportunity. Your world with one less child at home opens up all kinds of new possibilities. Seize the day!

Time to Let Your Child Prepare

You want your student to have the very best college experience that will fully prepare him for adult life. Is he ready emotionally, physically and financially for independent living? This summer is your last best chance to have him under your roof on a daily basis. How do you make the most of the remaining precious moments?

Consider this: Doing nothing is doing something. You have instilled every single bit of parental knowledge you know. You have managed their lives for them. This summer, you can turn your child’s life over to them. Instead of waiting for the first day of college, make this summer a time of transition. Allow them some of the freedoms of college while they are still under your roof.

This is not to say that you don't still have rules. They’ll have rules to follow in college. But it’s time for you to step back and let your student manage it.

It’s time to turn over to them all the practical skills they’ll need in college, from doing their own laundry to finding out how to register for classes.

Time to Give

“Wait a minute,” you say. “There must be something more I can do.” There is. Here are the three best graduation gifts you can share with your child before they leave your nest.

ONE: You want your child to enter the college world with confidence. Confidence will enable them to meet — and overcome — the challenges of college head on.

The one thing you can do to instill confidence in your student is this: Let them know that you have confidence in them. This is the very best gift a parent can give. Your words matter this summer. Use them to express confidence in your child’s ability at every moment.

TWO: Start treating your child as the adult they are becoming. Incorporate them into activities and conversations with your adult friends. Bring them into family decision-making. Find ways to help your child start seeing themselves as an adult. Replace directives with questions such as “What do you think?” or “What would you do?”

THREE: Give the gift of quality time. Create memories that the two of you carry forever in your hearts. It can be as simple as going to a baseball game one night or as elaborate as a vacation for just the two of you. This isn’t an occasion for lectures or words of wisdom. It’s a chance to just enjoy being with this incredible person you are sending off into the world.

Time to Make Time

The summer before my daughter left for college, I took her on a mother/daughter fly fishing trip to Montana. Hoping to ensure harmony, my husband gave both of us a piece of advice. He said that any time a subject came up that might be contentious, one of us should say, “This is not a conversation for Montana.” We still use that phrase today when discussions get heated.

No matter what age children are, they still want to know that they matter to their mom and dad. Whether they admit it or not, they want to know that their parents still want to spend time with them.

Yes, this is the last summer for you and your child. But it can also be the first summer for you and your new adult. Enjoy!

Janet Byington is a former school administrator who helps parents build confidence, motivation and mental toughness in their soon-to-be college students at Day One College Success. Her Day One co-founder Steve Safigan is a certified professional life and business coach with a master's degree in positive psychology.
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