How to Have the Best Parents Weekend

September’s turmoil is almost over. Bed Bath and Beyond has been depleted, dorm move-in has been successfully accomplished, and classes are in full swing. As parents, we can stop worrying about the transition to college and plan the visit.  If you live close enough to your college age child and do not want to wait until Thanksgiving to see them, well, it’s time for a little journey.  Some schools have an established Parents Weekend or you might just be heading to school on your own…either way, here are some things to think about.

parents weekend college campus Bring food, after all they are teens, need I say more.  If you bake, you are a goddess. If you can’t bring provisions, the grocery store makes a nice family outing.

In my informal poll, okay my Facebook page, there was a strong feeling that “Parents Weekend” was not really the best parents weekend, that the crowds and the staged events were not the optimal atmosphere in which to visit offspring.  Personal opinion will need to prevail.

If you are going to take your kid and, perhaps, their friends out, book early, really early. You will be unpleasantly surprised how fast reservations for hotels and restaurants in a college town will fill up for Parents Weekend.  I reserved a hotel for parents weekend the night my son picked his college, a touch neurotic you say?

If your kids left  their heavy things home, heavy coats, gloves, boots, hats and the winter comforter, it is time to bring them.  They may have moved into their dorms during a 90+ degree heat wave but by the time they come home for Thanksgiving there may be snow. You are still the parent, do they have the right clothes? My kids both underestimated the “nice” clothes that they might need for fraternity rush or dances and dinners.  Sometimes jeans and a tee-shirt just don’t cut it.

Ask about any expensive (in college student parlance) items they might need.  My kids were out of things like razor blades. I call those necessities, they called them expensive.

Don’t clean their room or bathroom, no matter how much it is killing you.  This is their turf, not yours and if ever there was a moment to turn a blind eye, it’s that bathroom.

If you have a hotel they may want to sleep there for a night.  They are just getting used to the crowds, noise and chaos of their dorms and on visiting weekends there can be a roommate’s siblings in their room as well. A roll away bed in your hotel might look pretty nice.

Alcohol.  Buying alcohol for under 21s is, of course, illegal and even though your college kid may not have imbibed in high school, or at least very little, it would not be a surprise to find out they are drinking in college. They may ask you to buy a bottle of something before you head home. Be ready with your answer, Parents Weekend is not a moment to start making family policy decisions.

It may be difficult  to sit around in their dorm room, particularly if they share it with others, so do a tiny bit of research about activities in the area.  This may be no more than a lunch reservation or scoping out a park, but your student may not have left campus yet and after he gives you the 20 minute tour, what’s next?

Things have changed in the very short time since you child left home.  He or she has had a major life experience, prepare yourself.  There are may be subtle and perhaps slightly uncomfortable ways in which your relationship has shifted. Be open-minded, take a very deep breath and remind yourself that each stage of their lives has been a period of adjustment.

If there was one subject about which there is parental consensus it is that kids will not want to spend as much time with their parents as their parents might hope. Get ready to look around the surrounding area or go to a movie. College kids have parties, sports, activities and academics to squeeze in during a visit.  They will be nice about it, but at the first sign of a good party or an a capella practice, parents will be dumped and, when we really ask ourselves we know, this is entirely as it should be. Have you gone on a Parents Weekend? What would you add to the list?

About Grown and Flown

Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan are the co-founders of Grown and Flown the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. They are writers (Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author), moms, wives and friends. They started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and are co-authors of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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