August always bring to mind three things–family birthdays (my husband and my older daughter), the impending end of summer, and for the past four years, having kids beginning/returning to…college.

Since we’ve done this a few times now for multiple children, I thought I would pass along some advice to those of you who are doing it for the first time:

1)   Do not, I repeat DO NOT watch Toy Story 3 under any circumstances unless you want to make yourself feel worse. Then by all means, watch it twice!

2)   Your child wants you to send food.

3)   Do not send along with your child a Costco value roll of “Forever” stamps, unless of course, you want them to last forever!

4)   Skype is a wonderful, wonderful communication tool! Use it often. However, if your child begins to make a “cut” motion, across their neck and/or “big eyes” and/or forms a silent “shhh!” then your child is not wearing ear buds, and you have probably committed a major faux pas that has been broadcast to the 5 other people in the room who you cannot see.

5)   Your child wants you to send food.

6)   If you don’t hear from your child for a while, you may be wondering if all is well. Don’t fret! No news is probably good news. If you get a call (or a text) at midnight, however, this means one or both of two things–something is wrong and/or your child’s body clock has been permanently altered and they can no longer differentiate between “real” time and “college” time.

7)   Don’t assume that the “child left behind” (the younger sibling) wants/needs extra attention. They most likely do not, unless that extra attention involves money/video games/other indulgences.

8)   Your child wants you to send food.

9)  Be prepared to feel scared, proud, confused, upset, happy, worried, concerned, delighted, curious, nostalgic, wistful, amazed–all in the same day.

10)   Be prepared to be surprised at how much they learn and grow and change in wonderful and miraculous ways.

11) Your child wants you to send food.

12) Know that you may have trouble going into their room after they have gone; however, know this, too-you will be happier than you can imagine upon seeing them again for the first time.

13) Know that you will miss their every day presence.

14) Know that the times when you are all together become more and more special.

15) Get used to transitions, because they keep happening.

16) Your child wants to hear from you; however, your child does not necessarily want to hear from you late Friday night or early Saturday morning.

17) After you do this once or twice, you will dread the day when your youngest leaves home; however, you will know, by that time, that you will survive.

18) What you don’t know won’t hurt you.

19) What you do know will sometimes frighten you.

20) You will come to enjoy the independent, free-thinking, confident young adults your children will become.

21) You will never, ever become immune to the joy of hearing their voice on the phone, seeing a text on your screen, receiving a Facebook message or post, or having them at home, for dinner, on any given night.

22) Despite the distance and reduced contact, you will come together stronger than ever, have stories to share, memories to relive, and bonds that will last forever, no matter what. College is just the beginning of the relationship that you are building to last the rest of your lives. Don’t blow it. Don’t judge. Don’t criticize. Accept, understand, advise (when asked) and relish every moment.

And remember…send food.