Aaaaah, summer break! Vacations, BBQs, beach days, and some family bonding. Enjoy this time, because summer fun soon turns into packing, moving them in, and worrying about what comes next as the fall semester begins. Ironically, some college freshmen aren’t prepared for the thing they have been craving the most in their lives. Autonomy. Independence. The freedom to make their own decisions.

The good news is that you still have time to begin preparing for this necessary step. For you and your child. It really is an adjustment for everyone. I am always surprised at speaking engagements when I ask parents to raise their hand if their high school grad does their own laundry, and only about 10% of the room proudly lifts their arm. When I dig in a little more to find out why, the responses usually sound like, “I’m already doing the family’s laundry, so why not do theirs too?”. Look, I get it. But unless you plan on sending them to school with a 3-month supply of underwear, being independent means taking responsibility for doing their own laundry.

I use the laundry example to illustrate an overlooked point. Sometimes we don’t do enough to teach our kids what they need to be independent. Summer is a great time to start empowering them to take responsibility for things they are going to need to do on their own in college. Like laundry. Or waking up in the morning without you as their backup alarm clock. Or making healthy food choices when you aren’t preparing their meals. Do they even know how to cook? Or budget? Will they go to office hours to meet with their professor because they don’t understand why they got a C on their exam? How confident are you they will make wise choices when you aren’t there?

I am giving you permission to look at the things your incoming college freshman can start doing for themself over the summer and empower them to do it. Look for the gaps in their life skills and help fill them in. It may be a little painful when they turn their whites pink, but you’ll get through it. And they will be one step closer to the autonomy they need to be successful in college.