Archive | August 2013

Real Estate Negotiations: What to do with your child’s room (and her stuff) after she heads to college

4052833522_8a07839b02

By Chris Little

If you’ve got a new college kid, by now she’s off at school. You’re likely adjusting to the quiet, doing a little less cooking and laundry—and walking past her empty room a couple times a day.

About that room: It’s no longer in active use—at least her half of it, if your kids share. So what are you going to do with all that space? And all the stuff in it?

Maybe you’re one of those parents who was tempted to stop by Sherwin Williams on your way home from dropping your freshman off at orientation, so you could set right to work repainting that room and converting it into a home office. Or maybe what you really want to do is shut the bedroom door and leave your kid’s room completely intact, as a memorial to his early days.

I suppose most of us fall somewhere in the middle. As for me, I wanted to leave my son’s room more or less the way it was, so he’s got a comfortable, familiar space to come home to at Thanksgiving. But to be honest, his room was too much of a mess to leave untouched. (No, that’s not his room up above, but you get the idea!)

Over the years I’ve been pretty laissez-faire when it comes to the tidiness of my kids’ rooms. My stance has been that the kids’ rooms are their domain, so they should get to decide how tidy to keep them—within limits, of course! So once the kids got old enough to help, I expected them to pitch in with the house cleaning when I asked them to, but I didn’t clean their rooms for them, and I pretty much let them decide how much or often to clean them—but no dirty dishes or uneaten food allowed!

As it turns out, my daughter is pretty fastidious, but my son is, well, not. Certainly he’ll clean up if he needs to (like when his grandmother is coming to visit), and he vacuums his carpet regularly enough—but the place hadn’t been dusted in quite awhile. I have to admit that part of what got me through sending him off to college was the thought that I could finally get in there and wipe down his bookshelves!

Tidy bedroomNow to be sure, we talked about it beforehand—I told him my intentions, because I didn’t want to invade his space unannounced. And so last weekend, armed with dust rags and wood polish, I addressed myself to his room, dusting off his dresser, bookshelves, and desk, carefully replacing his books and treasures where I found them, and resisting the urge to do much organizing or discarding. I kept in mind that this room is still his room, and the decision about whether to throw away those old movie ticket stubs is his to make, not mine.

I also did some reading about what other parents have decided to do with their kids’ rooms. It seems like there’s a consensus that rushing into renovations is a bad idea. Here’s what I learned:

1. Leave their room intact, at least for a while. For at least the first semester, it’s probably a good idea to leave your college kid’s room pretty much as-is, if you can. Of course it’s a different story if you’ve got younger siblings eager to expand into the empty space (see below). But otherwise, go ahead and do some dusting and tidying, but don’t change things around too much. They’ll be home before you know it for fall break and Thanksgiving, and you want them to feel like they’ve got a home to come home to.

2. Before you toss it out, talk it over. I’m a stickler for privacy and boundaries, so I won’t pick up anything more than a wet towel in my kids’ rooms without making sure they’re okay with it. More reasonable parents might have a great routine for how much cleaning they do in their kids’ rooms. But regardless, before you go in there and start tossing out old school work or donating their Legos to the homeless shelter, it seems respectful that you’d check in with your college kid, preferably before she leaves home or during a break from school. You want to make sure you don’t accidentally throw out something precious to her—and you want to give her a chance to stash her journals, love letters, and anything else it’s really not your business to find.

3. Same goes for big changes. If you’ve got younger siblings who need the space your college kid has vacated, or if you really need to convert that room into a home office, be sure to talk it over with your college kid before you break out the paint brush. And make sure you reserve some closet space and a corner for her bed, or at least a sofa bed, so she’s got a place to sleep and stow her stuff when she comes home for winter break.

4. Be patient. Chances are that when your college kid comes home for Thanksgiving his room will already feel a little alien, the posters a little juvenile, and the old ticket stubs less meaningful. It could be that your kid will even help you do some decluttering over the winter holidays!

5. If you can, let them bunk with you until after graduation. While we don’t want our homes to become storage units for our absent children, letting our kids keep their claim to their bedroom real estate until they’re settled into their own apartment after graduation can pay off for you. It’ll make visits home less stressful—and more likely to be repeated—if your kid has a comfortable place to stay. It may also help your kid make smart choices knowing she’s got a safety net if she needs it, rather than rushing into just any housing situation because she needs one. And keep in mind that even though today it might feel like your college kid has moved out for good, the reality is she probably hasn’t—some studies find that well more than half of college graduates move home for at least a little while after commencement while they’re looking for work.

How about you, empty nesters? What did you do with your college kids’ rooms after they left? And how soon did you do it? I’d love to hear your advice!

Images: Messy room: Some rights reserved by Rubbermaid Products; Tidy room: Pottery Barn Teen.

Advertisements

First Day… Hurray?

By Karen Hendricks

Here comes the bus... Source: Wikimedia Commons

Here comes the bus… Source: Wikimedia Commons

‘Tis the season… The back-to-school season! Do you cheer with a “Hurray” or reach for the tissues? Are your kids excited or scared–or both? The phrase “back to school” conveys a variety of emotions and meanings:

  • The excitement of new beginnings
  • Sadness over the end of summer vacation
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Changes… a new grade, perhaps a new school, a different bus
  • Another year older
  • The passage of time
  • Time moving too quickly
  • Milestones
  • Growing up
  • Happiness at being reunited with friends
  • Worrying about finding classrooms
  • Picking out and planning the first day of school outfit
  • Brightly-colored, new backpacks
  • New sneakers, squeaky-clean
  • Getting back into a familiar school day routine
  • Adjusting to new schedules
  • Dreading homework
  • Yellow pencils, pink erasers
  • Early mornings and alarm clocks
  • Posing for first day of school pictures

I think you can see all of these emotions and examples, in the photo collection (below) from our Off the Merry-Go-Round bloggers and families, as they rang in the first days of school recently. Enjoy! Wishing our readers and their families all the best, as we all embark upon a new school year together.

What does the first day of school mean to you? Make sure you take pictures to capture these precious moments and emotions!

(Click on any of the photos to open a slideshow.)

Chocolate Makes the End of Summer Sweeter

By Jen Ashenfelter

Wow, where did the summer go? Labor Day is around the corner which means a final round of picnics and parties to help us transition into the fall season. The scene is the same at every gathering–tables packed with personal serving dishes filled with a plethora of foods you’ll give up on Tuesday–including the desserts.

Here’s a homemade dessert everyone will love. Best of all, nobody has to know you whipped these 4 simple ingredients into a thing of chocolate beauty in the blink of an eye. I discovered this tasty gem in the September 2011 issue of Woman’s Day and tucked it into a collection of dessert recipes without eggs. I needed a dessert for a recent gathering and my egg-allergic youngest asked me to make it.

chocolate creme pieChocolate Crème Pie
15 oz part skim ricotta cheese
8 oz semisweet chocolate
6 oz ready-to-fill chocolate cookie pie crust
1 cup of heavy cream (plus 1 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract)

Place the ricotta in a microwave-safe bowl and heat on high, stirring every 15 seconds until no longer cold–about 1 minute. Transfer to a food processor and puree until smooth.

Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat on high, stirring every 15 seconds until the chocolate is melted and smooth–about 1-2 minutes.

Add the warm chocolate to the food processor and puree until fully incorporated and very smooth. Spread the mixture into the crust and refrigerate until firm–at least 3 hours and up to 3 days.

When ready to serve (or before taking to that party), using an electric mixer, beat the cream–and I added a tbsp of sugar and a tsp of vanilla extract–in a medium bowl until stiff peaks form. Spread the whipped cream over the pie and top with either shaved chocolate or chocolate sprinkles, if desired.

While you’re at it, make two pies–one to take and one to keep–because there won’t be a bite left. Enjoy!

Cupcakes and more summer fun on Pinterest

By Karen Hendricks

Who doesn’t love cupcakes? Not only are they sweet, pretty packages of deliciousness, but they can be healthy too–surprise! I recently discovered two cupcake recipes through my addiction to Pinterest–one for Peach Cupcakes and another for Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cupcakes. If you have access to either fresh peaches or a garden full of zucchini right now, I guarantee you’ll enjoy either recipe.

Choc Zucchini Cupcakes

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cupcakes – adapted from Susquehanna Style magazine, originally courtesy Terra Brownback, Spiral Path Farm

Makes 12 cupcakes

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups packed, grated zucchini
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (Note: the original recipe calls for 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips but I amped this up a bit 🙂 )

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cupcake wrappers into pan, or spray or lightly grease muffin pans with oil. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs or egg substitute, applesauce, oil and vanilla. Stir in zucchini. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, and stir until moistened. Fold in chocolate chips. Spoon into muffin pans and bake for 25 minutes; cool before frosting. (The original recipe calls for a cream cheese frosting, but my daughter and I made our favorite chocolate frosting to go on top–or–they are delicious without frosting!)

Peaches

Peach Cupcakes with Peach Buttercream – adapted from the blog Cathlin Cooks (Kudos to Cathlin!)

Cupcakes

  • 2-2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup fresh peach puree
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar

Buttercream

  • 1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 cup peach puree
  • Vanilla, to taste

Cake:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a muffin tin, or lightly grease and flour a 9-inch round or 8-inch square cake pan. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar into a bowl. In a measuring cup, mix together the peach puree, oil and vanilla. Add the peach mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk together until combined. At this point, you may want to add some yellow and food colouring to achieve a peachier colour. When the batter is smooth, add the vinegar and stir quickly. The batter will foam slightly where the baking soda and vinegar are reacting. Stir just until the vinegar is evenly distributed throughout the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 20 minutes if making cupcakes, or 25 to 30 minutes it making cake. Allow to cool before glazing or frosting.

Peach Buttercream:
Whip the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat until well combined. Add peach puree and vanilla and beat again until smooth. You may want to add some yellow and red food colouring to achieve a peachier colour. Can be piped or spread onto cakes.

I pinned both recipes to our Off the Merry-Go-Round account on Pinterest, and created a special board “Featured on the 8/16/13 Blog” so you can easily find the originals. If you need inspiration as we gear up for a new school year, I’ve included some fresh new ideas for school lunches, back-to-school crafts and more:

  • 30 Back-to-School Breakfast Ideas from the awesome blog Six Sisters’ Stuff
  • Photography Tips for Visiting a County Fair
  • Back-To-School Crafts with Apple Prints
  • Make a DIY Toothbrush Holder–with a toy dinosaur or other creatures (to brighten those early school mornings)
  • Lunchbox Ideas

Have you found inspiration on Pinterest? Tell us about your favorite finds, by leaving a comment with links, below. We may feature your “pins” in future posts. Thanks & enjoy!

Saying Goodbye to a Pet

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

Untitled Poem

In my last blog, “Saying Goodbye to the Baby Years,” I mentioned that Kalli Dakos has a wonderful collection of “goodbye poems” to mark occasions of love, loss, and moving on (click here for her website). The poem above is a touching tribute to a beloved dog – missed by a child even into adulthood.

When you have children, addressing the loss of a pet can be especially tricky for two reasons: you are demonstrating how grief in general is handled in your family, and you are building the foundation for how your child will cope with loss in the future.

Several months ago, my family and I went through this process as we grieved the loss of our beloved American Eskimo dog, Bebe. I purchased Bebe in the late 1990s from a well run, local pet store where I lived in St. Petersburg, Florida. She saw me through a painful divorce, the sometimes loneliness of single life, and many career and personal adventures in between.

Forever Friends

Forever Friends

Although Bebe died several months prior, we celebrated her life this May in our lovely azalea garden with the flowers in full bloom. No matter how you choose to say goodbye to your pet, it is important to find some way to commemorate the life of the beautiful creature that brought sunshine to your days. Below are a few suggestions for saying goodbye to your pet – no matter what kind of a pet you have.

Our Azalea Garden in Bloom

Our Azalea Garden in bloom

How to Say “Goodbye” to Your Pet

* If you have the opportunity, spend last moments of quiet time together. Hold your pet, talk with your pet, cry with your pet. These final memories will be good ones to hold onto after your pet is gone. The evening before I had to take Bebe to the veterinarian to put her to sleep, my husband watched my son so she and I could just be together. I petted her, held her, talked openly with her, and cried – a lot. We even took final pictures of her with us. I am so glad I spent that final time with her and will treasure it always.

Some final moments with Bebe ...

Some final moments with Bebe …

* Talk with others. Sometimes we may feel a bit embarrassed, even “silly,” when we grieve our pet. Yet remember that many people share your feelings. You may have heard someone refer to their pet as a “member of the family.” Pets can indeed touch our lives in some profound ways. Talking about how you feel with others will help you see that your sentiments are echoed by many. You are not alone!

*Address the loss openly and with great sensitivity. If this is your children’s first experience with death you definitely want to handle it well since it will likely have a lasting impact on their lives. It may be difficult to refrain from cracking a smile when having to flush a little belly-up guppy down the toilet, yet if you treat this time seriously and guide your children through the grieving process they hopefully will develop coping skills for future losses.

* Include the entire family in the grieving process. This is very important in order to help your children and other family members find closure. No matter how old your children, they can participate in some way. Of course for an infant it may simply be that they are being held in your arms during the goodbyes, and can look back on pictures of the day when the family discusses the event in the future. In this way, they will see that their presence was valued during that time as well. Older children can have more involved roles, depending upon their age.

* Hold a remembrance ceremony or memorial service. Every family will handle this differently. Some purchase a burial plot in a pet cemetery; others mark a special place in their backyard for burying a memory box. Still others have their pet cremated and display the ashes in a beautiful container or box. If allowing a veterinary hospital handle all of the arrangements, and no ashes or memory marker is going to be received, a family may just wish to set aside time one day for sharing memories of their pet.

Hold a special memorial service and involve all of the members of your family - no matter how young.

Hold a special memorial service and involve all the members of your family – no matter how young.

* The way you say goodbye does not have to be extravagant to be meaningful. There is no “right” way to say goodbye, nor one way over another that will make the loss any easier. In acknowledging the life of your pet, you need to choose a way that feels good to you and works for your family. Perhaps you have the money for a burial plot in a pet cemetery and feel that is a special tribute. Just know that it is not necessary to go to such great expense and effort to say goodbye to your pet. The way you say goodbye is not as important as the meaning behind whatever way you choose.

* Establish a permanent “marker” for your pet. Again, this does not have to be an expensive item – rather just something for you and your family to look at, touch, visit, and talk to. Something solid that allows you to “communicate” with, and remember, your pet during the times you miss her. Sometimes time doesn’t heal all wounds and it is nice to have a more tangible way to reminisce about your pet outside of recalling fond memories. My family chose to keep Bebe’s beautiful wooden ashes box on our display case rather than bury it. Instead, we buried a box full of memorable items from her life in our azalea garden. We marked the “grave” site with a fairly large, flat rock and placed a small outdoor dog statue of an American Eskimo on top of that. Her resting place is watched over by our garden fairy, Fiona.

Bebe's resting place

Bebe’s resting place

* Invite whomever you like. Your ceremony can be small and intimate, perhaps just the members of your immediate family as ours was for Bebe, or you can open the memorial service to extended family and even good friends. Invite whomever you are comfortable sharing the occasion with as well as whomever will be supportive of you during this difficult time.

*Plan ahead. Of course all pets will die eventually. Just as we often begin planning for our passing before it happens, the grieving process and saying goodbye to our pets can be made easier if we know how we are going to handle that time when it comes.

Saying goodbye to a pet is typically not easy yet by having a plan in place for doing so with your family, finding a special way to honor the memory of your pet, and helping your children deal with their loss you can certainly get through it.

Special sentiments ...

Special sentiments …

Please share how you handled the loss of a pet with your family – how you coped, or a special way you remembered the life of your pet.

August Days (Daze)

By Karen Hendricks

hiking trail

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

I feel summer slipping away… August always seems like a frenzied rush of activity–preparing for school days and yet desperately trying to  savor a few more sweet summer days, and stashing a few more precious memories away for safe-keeping. It’s a balancing act for sure!

Deep breath… It may be August, but it’s early August, and there’s still time to enjoy a getaway (or two)!

One of my favorite getaways is also one of the easiest to plan: Taking a family hike in a state park or forest. Even if the trail is only a short distance from your home, being in the woods is an adventure that takes you worlds away. Our family has picked up a few tips through the years, but feel free to comment and leave your own tips as well!

Hiking How-To:

  • Pick a destination with appeal. Choose a mountaintop, a waterfall, vista or other similar feature as a goal to reach. It makes the trip worthwhile on many levels!
  • Plan your route. Most parks have trail maps available on their websites, so you can “study” your route ahead of time, and tailor your total mileage to your family’s fitness or age-appropriate level. Or, seek the advice of a park ranger and ask for his/her recommendation for a trail your family can tackle.
  • Just like the Boy Scouts, be prepared. Bring a backpack stashed with a small first aid kit, bug spray, sunscreen, and snacks such as granola bars and/or apples. Either include water bottles in the backpack for everyone (although this could be heavy to start!) or bring a second soft cooler-type bag for the water.
  • Be observant. Encourage your children to keep their eyes open for natural wonders: types of trees, interesting spiders and other insects, animal tracks (or even animals!), flowers, etc. You literally never know what you’ll encounter around each curve in the trail.
  • Be healthy. Exercising is a great side benefit for everyone, and the fact that you’re exercising together as a family is even better! Wear a pedometer or track your distance using an app on your phone, for your total mileage.
  • Record a few memories. If you still have a hand free, bring a camera!

Most admission to state parks or recreation areas is free, so you’ll also be planning a daytrip that’s easy on the family budget… another worthwhile benefit.

Baltimore's Inner Harbor: The colorful building in the center is the Baltimore Aquarium--an amazing place my family has loved visiting!

Baltimore’s Inner Harbor: The colorful building in the center is the Baltimore Aquarium–an amazing place my family has loved visiting! Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Summer (Brain) Storms

Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about day trips, and how much our family enjoys heading to our nation’s capital for getaways. (Click here for Daytrip: Washington, D.C.) I opened the discussion up on Facebook and asked friends to share their favorite daytrip destinations. Wow, did they respond with some fabulous ideas! Check out the results of their brainstorming:

  • Inner Harbor, Baltimore (Thanks, Julie!) and another friend suggested dinner at Baltimore’s City Cafe, followed by a Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concert (Thanks, Judy!)
  • “Lititz, PA is fun, especially Wilbur Chocolate Factory” (Thanks, Wendy!)
  • Strasburg Railroad, in Lancaster County (Thanks, Paulette!)
  • “I personally always loved going to the Catoctin Zoo (Thurmont, MD). Even after my oldest outgrew it and my youngest is on his way, I still love going. It is a wonderful, tranquil park-like environment with hands-on feeding opportunities. The saddest day was when “Griz” the grizzly bear passed away. I felt like I lost a good friend that day. Highly recommend!” (Check out local zoos and wildlife refuges in your area–Thanks, Jen!)
  • “For an indoor break when it’s rainy or just way too hot we go to the Summer Kids Free movies at the local theaters or use coupons for free bowling through KidsBowlFree.com.” (Thanks, Melaney!)
  • “When it’s nice out we have been visiting different local parks and recreation areas using the “Roads To Freedom” program through the Adams County Library and the “Go Outdoors York” program through the York County Library. Their programs are like letterboxing where they give clues at a park to send you on a walk to find the pencil rubbing posts.” (Check your local libraries for similar summer programs and thanks to Melaney for this idea also!)
  • Another friend suggested area parks, especially ones with lakes for swimming and/or boat rentals. (Thanks, Christina!)
  • I will add one more… check out area sporting events. They will nurture your children’s love of the game, whether it’s baseball or soccer, or anything in between. Tickets to MLB games are often offered in family-friendly packages, or head to a minor league ballpark where tickets are even more affordable and include fun “extras” such as fireworks or t-shirts. Soccer games are also a lot of fun, whether at the MLS or USL level. Or take a drive to visit an NFL training camp. Or forget watching sports, and participate by enjoying a round of miniature golfing!

Take time to enjoy these fleeting summer days of August… and as always, feel free to share your ideas and thoughts. What are your traditions for these August days? Do you feel in a daze, wondering where summer went? Share your strategies for savoring every last drop of the summer, below. 🙂

For even more inspiration, check out some of our previous, related posts:

The Importance of Girlfriend Getaways

Vacation: Same Time, Same Place–Next Year!

Up for Family Adventure? Try Biking on a Rail Trail

Left Behind: How to help younger sibs adjust when a big brother or sister heads to campus

796e41a1ee3970f6_shutterstock_59829463.preview

By Chris Little

Until now I’ve been focusing on how the emptying nest feels to the parents (okay, mostly the mothers) left behind. But I’d like to spend some time thinking about how it might feel to younger kids left at home when an older sibling heads off to college. I’ve been doing some reading and found a great article by Dr. Kathy Zamostny, a psychologist at the University of Maryland.

“When an older child leaves for college, it creates a hole in the family unit that presents both challenges and opportunities for those at home,” she writes. “On the one hand, younger siblings may experience a sense of loss when a close (or not so close) older sister or brother takes off for college that may be related to less support or companionship, or even a lower activity level with one less person in the home.”

That’s one thing: The house undeniably will be quieter. And with one less driver in the house, your younger kids might find themselves back on the school bus. What will that be like?

“A younger child’s role in the family may change with the absence of his big brother or big sister,” Zamostny continues. “For example, a second born child moves up to become the oldest, or perhaps an ‘only’ kid at home—which can have drawbacks and benefits. Some younger children may experience increased pressure when an older sib is no longer around to split the attention and scrutiny of parents or to buffer parental demands and reprimands.”

I’ve definitely heard from friends that the last one left at home can feel a little overwhelmed by all the parental attention! But there’s a flip side to that, too:

“Some younger siblings blossom socially when an older sibling leaves home, in part because there is more psychological space to grow and interact,” Zamostny writes. “Also, more physical space opens up—perhaps an extra bedroom that allows greater opportunities to entertain friends. In addition, the family car may become more available, time on the television or computer may be more abundant, and the house may feel more peaceful and quiet. An older child’s absence might also strengthen the bonds among younger sibs as they adjust to their shared loss by forging new relationships.”

The bottom line is, it might feel good and bad when an older sibling heads off to college—and it’s going to take some time to adjust. Here are a few suggestions to help ease the transition:

A-beautiful-hispanic-college-student-texting-on-her-cellphoneKeep them connected. Phone calls and emails are great for keeping your younger kids connected with your college kid. Skype is even better. I read about a pair of sisters who used to love to bake together. When one moved out of the house they continued the tradition, baking together over Skype with each in her own kitchen!

Plan a visit. Is your younger child old enough to spend a weekend at college her big sib?  Having some time together might help both kids adjust. Added benefit: Your younger child gets a chance to experience college life.

Keep up your traditions. Of course you’re going to save as many traditions as you can for when your college kid comes home—like maybe decorating the Christmas tree or baking holiday cookies, etc. But some traditions, like Sunday-night pizza or Monday-night football, should continue even in their absence. Life goes on, and when it does, that’s comforting to everyone.

Start new ones! This is also a good time to take up some new traditions. Did your eldest hate bike rides (or ice cream, or watching old movies) but your youngest always loved them? These differences in taste and personality point the way to new traditions—I think once my eldest is out of the house we’ll be eating a lot less ice cream but watching a lot more Glee!

Keep communication lines open at home. Many kids are missing their older siblings but don’t like to admit it. Checking in with your younger child from time to time, just to let her know you’re thinking about how she’s doing with the changes at home, can be reassuring. You might start this even before your college kid moves out—ask our younger child about her hopes and worries about this next stage.

Celebrate your team. Before and after your college kid heads to campus, make a point of celebrating your family unit. Does that sound hokey? It doesn’t have to be! Just try to notice—and share in a casual way—the times you’re especially enjoying the family-ness of your family. For me, it’s sitting around the dinner table long after dinner is over. I never want to be the first one to get up to clear the plates, and the kids roll their eyes when I bring a dish of cookies over—they know I’m trying to keep them there talking as long as I can! Celebrating your team will help your younger kids know that the family will continue even into September—and it’ll help your college kid know that as he sets off on his big new adventure, you’ve all got his back.

Keep your balance. As you adjust to there being one less place at the dinner table each night, you might find yourself leaning for emotional support on the kids still at home. Some of that is okay, but be careful about expecting them to carry too much of your emotional weight. Read here for some tips on keeping your inner balance so that you don’t push the kids off theirs.

I can see there’s no way around it: Having a child move off to college is going to change things at home—with an inevitable reshuffling of roles and family dynamics. It seems like the key is to pay attention to how that feels and be flexible, patient—and communicative—as you all adapt.

So of course I want to hear from parents who’ve already got a college kid out of the nest—how was it for the younger kids? How did you get through the change in a positive way? I’m eager for any tips I can find!