TIME Parenting

Do Fathers Love Their Children Less Than Mothers Do?

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Sam Edwards—Getty Images/OJO Images RF

Moms report getting more happiness from their children whereas fathers ranked kids no higher than their career.

Women in relationships got a happiness boost after having children. Men only seemed to derive well-being from the relationship.

For example, a 1997 Pew Survey found that “ninty-three percent of mothers think their children are a source of happiness all or most of the time. Eighty-six percent of mothers of children under age eighteen say their relationship to their children is crucial to their personal happiness (10 on a 10-point scale).” On the other hand, for men, children often rank no higher than career as a source of happiness.

And:

…Additionally, Kohler, Behrman and Skytthe identify a substantial and significant male-female difference in the effect of children on well-being—after controlling for the effect of a current partnership. “Females derive happiness gains from children even after controlling for current partnership status. The happiness of males, however, depends primarily on partnership status; once current partnership is controlled, men’s happiness does not vary systematically with fertility.”

Source: “The New Battle of the Sexes: Understanding the Reversal of the Happiness Gender Gap” from Ave Maria University, Department of Economics, Working Papers, number 1004.

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME Family

Having a Second Baby Makes Moms Less Happy Than Dads

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Smiling family of four sitting in bed together Monashee Frantz—Getty Images/OJO Images RF

Dads, however, are pretty happy after the birth of baby number two

The birth of a first child usually brings both parents great joy, but new analysis shows that a mother’s happiness begins to wane after the second.

According to the FiveThirtyEight blog, 60% of men and women say they feel an increase or decrease in happiness after the first child is born. For baby number two, however, the numbers shift. About 65% of women report being less happy after their second child enters the world, compared to 40% of men.

But a second baby doesn’t just significantly impact a couple’s happiness, the little bundle of joy can be a burden (or blessing) for couples’ relationships too.

According to the data, derived from the annual General Social Survey, a National Opinion Research Center survey that examines societal change, women are less likely to be dissatisfied in their relationships after the second child than men. About 85% of men reportedly feel less satisfied in their relationship as their family expands, compared to 51% of women.

So while mom is overwhelmed by the stress of raising kids, dad is growing less satisfied in the relationship. Great news to kick off Father’s Day weekend, huh?

[FiveThirtyEight]

MONEY First-Time Dad

For Father’s Day, this Millennial Dad Wants Absolutely, Positively…Nothing

Luke Tepper

After four months of dad duty, this first-time father thinks fatherhood is its own reward.

This Sunday will be my first Father’s Day. And believe me (wife and world) when I say that this year, and every year after, I don’t want anything.

This isn’t a flippant decision, and I’m as much of a hedonistic materialist as any other red-blooded American. Books and ties and whisky are as important to me as they are to anyone else. I love sweaters and tickets to basketball games and urbane picture frames.

(One thing I would never, ever want is cash, like one father in Kit Yarrow’s piece.)

I realize that I’m a new father and don’t really have a lot of legitimacy among those who’ve been parenting for decades. (Although all of the hard work is front-loaded.) Maybe a nice chunk of new-fangled technology makes the veteran dad’s day a bit easier. Do I really want to eschew the thrill of opening something wrapped?

In a word—yes.

Why? Well, a little over four months ago I was in a hospital room at two o’clock in the morning. My responsibilities at that time included making sure the lights stayed dimmed and repeatedly counting to 10.

My wife was also in the room on that day. Her responsibilities were a little different. She spent the better part of five hours actively pushing our son out into the world.

Subsequently, she’s been his sole source of food, enticed him (every night) to sleep, and administered medicine when he was sick. She hasn’t had a full night of rest since he was born (and it’s not like pregnant women sleep that well anyway) and has watched over him for his entire life.

Of course I’ve helped. I’ve fed him occasionally and risen pre-dawn every so often. I’ve held him as he wailed in the doctor’s office after getting his shots. I change diapers.

But I’m a supporting character (the Tonto to her Lone Ranger) in the story of how he’s made it this far.

Which brings me back to Father’s Day.

Receiving a present from my wife (or my son when he’s older) will just feel rather silly. Almost like Randy Brown (Who? Exactly!) earning a championship ring for being on the same team as Michael Jordan.

The existence of Father’s Day is not written on the heart of man by the hand of god. It became a national holiday about 50 years after Mother’s Day, and President Obama’s birthday predates it. So, it’s not like I’m breaking Tevye-like tradition here.

This Sunday I will think about my kid and my new family, and relish my luck and good fortune. That is my present.

TIME Internet

Facebook Lifts Ban on Exposed Nipples in Breastfeeding Pictures

The social media site said the ban was quietly lifted about two weeks ago. It does not apply to other images of female nipples

It appears Facebook has withdrawn its ban on female nipples in photos of breastfeeding mothers.

Facebook has drawn heat from feminists for considering images of topless women as violations of their policies against nudity and obscenity —even when the photographs depict breastfeeding mothers.

Feminist writer Soraya Chemaly brought attention to the policy change on The Huffington Post, noting that the social media company had quietly changed its policy on obscene content in regard to breastfeeding mothers. Images that include the exposed nipples of breastfeeding can now be posted on the site without the risk of removal.

“The female nipple ban no longer exists for breastfeeding mothers, which should make many people who have been pushing the company to address a nudity double standard at least partially happy,” Chemaly wrote on Monday.

The ban drew the attention of women last year who took the site to task over the policy, which they said is an example of gender-based discrimination. A campaign led by Chemaly called on Facebook to combat both hate-speech and “obscenity” double standards. It garnered over 60,000 tweets, 5000 emails, and a bundle of disgruntled advertisers, and led Facebook to respond with an explanation of its policy.

A year later, the breastfeeding ban has been lifted, though bans on artistic displays of female nipples remain in place. Facebook has not yet acknowledged that the ban was lifted for breastfeeding women.

[Huffington Post]

TIME Family

The 7 Dumbest Things You Can Buy Dad for Father’s Day

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Boy and girl watching father open Father's Day gift Blend Images - Ariel Skelley—Getty Images/Brand X

Searching for a last-minute gift for your dad? Here's what not to buy

Sunday is Father’s Day, and you’re still searching for a gift. Sure, you could buy him a tie, but does that really say, “Thank you for changing my diapers and helping me with my homework and picking me up when my car broke down?” Here are seven other gifts you should probably avoid.

A day to himself

A day off from fatherhood may sound nice, but telling dad he can have the day to spend alone or with the guys in front of the TV watching the game is depressing. Make plans to watch sports with dad or better yet, get cheap tickets to a minor league baseball game.

Power tools

Don’t let those commercials with dads having so much fun fixing things in the garage fool you. They’d have way more fun spending time with you: throwing a ball in the yard or watching a movie together. Unless your dad has been complaining about how terrible his old set of tools is, he’s probably set on the toolbox front. And if you get him power tools, he might feel the need to fix things, and who wants to spend a relaxing holiday fixing the sink?

Cologne

Even if you know the scent he likes, he probably has more than enough. Be more inventive, people!

Man candle

Not caring whether a room smells like lavender or ginger is not the same as wanting the room to smell like bacon or pizza. That’s just going to make you hungry all the time, and it’s going to make your house smell like a dirty dorm room.

Apron for grilling with a joke on it

Moms shouldn’t have to cook or clean on Mother’s Day, so dads shouldn’t have to grill on Father’s Day. If he wants to, fine. But getting him an apron implies that you expect him to fire up the grill. It’s even worse if it’s an apron with a joke on it like “The Grillfather” that will no longer be funny in a month but that he has to wear when you do actually have people over to grill.

Something that’s really for you

I’m unapologetically mining my “7 Terrible Mother’s Day Gift Ideas” here, but the rule still applies. Don’t get dad tickets to a concert or game or movie or play that you want to go to. That’s selfish. And definitely don’t buy him a pet that he is going to have to end up taking care of just because you want a puppy.

Useless tech toys

Sure, dad’s a gadget nut. And yes, you want impulsively want to purchase everything in that Brookstone or SkyMall catalogue. But dropping big bucks on something your father will only use once—a virtual keyboard, a fork with a digital meat thermometer in it, a remote control that looks like a magic wand—is not worth it.

MONEY Odd Spending

What You Wish You Could Give Dad on Father’s Day — But Shouldn’t

Your dad might really be in need of a hearing aid, a fitness regimen, or some form of anti-snoring assistance. But Father's Day is probably not the day to tell him.

Father’s Day is an excellent opportunity to give your pops something he’ll really love. And, like all gift-giving holidays, it’s also a great chance to send him not-so-subtle messages about his lifestyle and habits via passive-aggressive presents.

This might sound like a funny prank, but be warned: While you may wish to give such gifts, it is not advisable to do so. Handing Dad a cheeky present is all fun and games until he turns the table on you. And make no mistake, he will.

When he does, you better brace yourself (especially millennials out there) because he has more ammo than you can possibly imagine. By the time Dad was your age, he’d already moved out of his parents’ home, got a first job (maybe even started a business), found a partner, and had a child or three. He’s the spitting image of the American dream—he’s bullet proof! You? Maybe not so much. Your latest brilliant idea involves buying your dad snarky presents on the day established in his honor. So if you go this route, don’t be surprised when your birthday present from dad is an all-expenses-paid trip to boot camp, a job search guide, or “How to Get Married Before It’s Too Late.” Remember: You started this.

So you probably shouldn’t go there. But if you were to do so, here are some ideas.

Protein Powder and Fitness Magazines

A huge tub of whey and a subscription to Muscle and Fitness might be a great gift for a dad who’s already extremely into working out, but could seem a little sarcastic if your father’s workout routine consist of one sit-up per day (when he gets out of bed). Another, more covert option? A Fitbit or other wearable fitness gadget. Everyone loves new toys, and dad will be forced to go outside for a while in order to play with this one.

Anti-Snoring Gift Box

If you really want to make your point about Dad’s power to wake the entire house with one deep unconscious inhale, be sure to give dad a real sampling of anti-snoring products. That means anti-snoring spray, anti-snoring nasal strips, an anti-snoring pillow, and my favorite: an anti-snoring jaw strap. Who cares that many snore stopping products might not actually work? As the Joker said, it’s about sending a message. Put them all in a pretty basket, with a bow on top. Dads always appreciate good presentation.

Soap

For whatever reason, giving nice soap (as opposed to other personal hygiene products like toothpaste or shaving cream) is actually pretty standard Father’s Day fare. This is good because you can achieve your objective—more, or at least better, bathing by the old man—without causing offense. Well, not too-too much offense. The standard route is an organic soap sampler, but if you’re interested in giving the clearest possible hint, it’s hard to beat a single bar of Dove in an otherwise empty box.

Cooking Lessons

The offensiveness of cooking lessons really depends on how hard everyone else in the family laughs during the reveal. If it’s more of an “ahhhhh” reaction with lots of head nodding (and maybe a few snickers), then you’re all clear. If everyone spits out their soup guffawing over dad making anything other than reheated Mac N’ Cheese, then your message will get through. But don’t expect any gifts from dad next Christmas. Or ever.

Hearing Aid

There’s no subtlety here. This is something many fathers need but do not actually want because it suggests they’re getting a littttttle over the hill. However, if you’d like to avoid yelling whenever pops is in the room, you might just have to force the issue. Before you do, though, consider this: Does your dad actually want to hear everyone’s dinner-table squabbling at family gatherings?

MONEY Shopping

Just Plain Awful Father’s Day Gifts, and What to Buy Instead

There are the Father's Day gifts that you think are funny or cute or clever, and then there are the Father's Day gifts that dads actually like and will use. Which kind are you giving dad?

Here’s a list of common Father’s Day gift categories that dads really don’t want, followed by what you should buy instead:

Gag Gifts
You might be tempted to have a little fun with dad on Father’s Day by purchasing something silly and embarrassing like “meggings,” denim swimwear, or another joke from this list of gifts so bad they’re awesome. You might think it’ll just be hilarious to see the look on dad’s face when he opens up an inflatable toupee, or a “Senior Moments” memory workout book, or adult diapers, or something else that makes a show of how old your old man is. Ha-ha-ha. Joke’s on you, uncool, bald, pathetic, incontinent old man! You know, dementia and death are probably right around the corner! Ha-ha-ha.

Granted, some dads might think this stuff is really a laugh riot too. But … probably not. Same goes for gag gifts that burp and fart. We don’t want them, nor do we appreciate the message sent when we’re given them. As one dad blogger put it on his list of Father’s Day gifts dad doesn’t want, “I understand that I don’t hide my body’s venting. But I realize every Father’s Day that’s how you see us. I’m just a cartoon fart machine to you.”

What to Get Instead: Almost anything, really. Heck, even some stupid “World’s Best Dad” T-shirt or mug—often on Bad Father’s Day Gift lists themselves—would be way better. Far better than that, though, would be something genuinely thoughtful and practical. It doesn’t have to be something the average person would consider a “gift.”

If you’ve noticed your dad’s wheelbarrow wobbles, or his favorite work boots have no more tread, or his college alma mater baseball hat is falling apart, go and get him a new replacement. Save him the trouble of a trip to the store. The elimination of a headache or a chore is a wonderful gift the average dad deeply appreciates. Above all, be sure that whatever you do or give implicitly demonstrates you see him as more than just a silly old fart machine.

Useless Gadgets
Just say no to anything that you’ve seen in the Sky Mall catalogue, and anything that you imagine might has or ever will be in the Sky Mall catalogue. Again, this basically comes down to knowing who the gift recipient is: Is your dad (or spouse) really the kind of person who would want—or even know what to do with—a wrist fitness monitor or a voice-activated golf cap?

Most dads hate to see money wasted, and hate it even more when the money is being wasted in their honor. Think about that before presenting dad with a dubious doohickey that’ll sit unused, unopened, indefinitely.

What to Get Instead: Some piece of technology that’s actually useful, and that dad actually wants. Dads aren’t tech idiots. They just like what they like, and they’re skeptical (for good reason) about the value of any hot new “must have.” Father’s Day, which should be a day of relaxation and enjoyment, isn’t the day to prod dad into embracing something unfamiliar. That’s sorta like giving a high school student homework on the day he graduates. It’s cruel.

If you know your father (or spouse) well, you should be in tune with his likes and dislikes, and what’s in his comfort zone. In some cases, it’s a great idea to give dad the newest version of his favorite e-reader or tablet, or perhaps even to splurge on the 70-inch HDTV you know he’s been dying to see in his living room.

If you’re pursuing this route, go the extra mile and make dad’s transition to the new tech as smooth, simple, and easy as possible. That might mean importing his contacts or e-book library, or taking care of the wiring and installation of the TV or video game system (yes, some dads are big-time gamers). Remember, Father’s Day isn’t the day to give dad extra work to do. Speaking of which …

Gifts That Put Dad to Work
Whereas moms may get “a dozen long-stemmed, obscenely expensive flowers” for Mother’s Day, the corresponding gift for fathers, according to Detroit News columnist Brian O’Connor, is “an entire flat of tomato seedlings from the farmer’s market for you to plant, weed, water and fertilize for the next three months.”

What to Get Instead: Feel free to buy those tomato plants—or some other gift that’s really something of a project—but volunteer to take responsibility, or at least share the responsibility, for them. Not just on Father’s Day, mind you, but for the long haul. Come harvest time, make dad his favorite homemade sauce, or if you can’t cook, slice those tomatoes up and serve them with fresh mozzarella, basil, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.

Gifts That Tell Dad He Should Change
Even worse than gag clothing gifts for dads are some of the clothes that givers actually expect dad to wear—and that cause him extraordinary discomfort as a result. Sure, traditional dad fashion may be embarrassing (black socks and sandals anyone?), but it’s even more embarrassing to see a blissfully uncool, out-of-it dad try to pull off donning the latest trends, be it skinny jeans, floral prints, or whatever else someone deems as “hip” at the moment. Or rather, to see a dad being forced to wear such clothing because one of his children decides it’s in his best interest.

Father’s Day is about fathers. It’s about celebrating who they are, not who you think they should be. The day you’re honoring your father is not the day to implicitly send the message that you think he should be more fashionable, or lose weight (would you buy your mom a treadmill for Mother’s Day?), or learn to cook, or try some cocktail that’s all the rage, or stop snoring, or change in any way. Yet some gifts unsubtly send just those messages, and they come across not as helpful, but as disrespectful and insulting.

What to Get Instead: His tried-and-true favorites. Whatever brand of cigars, Scotch, craft beer, sunglasses, or sandals he favors is a can’t-miss gift. Stop fooling around and get the man what he likes. By doing so, you’ll demonstrate you know him well, and that you accept and love him for who he is.

Or you could just get a “World’s Best Dad” T-shirt. At least he can mow the lawn in the T-shirt without drawing snickers from the neighbors. That’s more than you can say for skinny jeans.

TIME Family

Mila Kunis Gets Unbelievably Candid About Childbirth

Mila Kunis on the cover of the July issue of Marie Claire Marie Claire

This is the definition of real talk

Mila Kunis is really not sugarcoating pregnancy. Earlier this week, the actress jokingly called out Jimmy Kimmel for saying “we’re pregnant” when referring to the baby he’s expecting with his wife. And now that Kunis is preparing for the birth of her first child, it sounds like she knows exactly what she wants.

“Two people are allowed in my delivery room,” Kunis told Marie Claire for its July cover story. “My doctor and my significant other [her fiancé Ashton Kutcher]. And he is staying above the action. He’ll be head to head. Not head to vag. Unless he wants to risk his life and see. But I wouldn’t if I were him. I highly doubt he wants to see that being ripped apart and shredded. Because it will be shredded. It’s just a matter of how badly.”

Luckily for Kunis, Kutcher is probably familiar with how the female body looks after giving birth. After all, the actor was married to Demi Moore, who has three children with former husband Bruce Willis, for eight years.

And Kunis recognizes that there are perks of being pregnant, namely her breasts growing. “They’ve tripled in size,” Kunis said. “I was a 34A; now I’m a 36C. I’m so excited! I’m telling everyone I know, ‘Go ahead, touch them!'”

On a more sentimental note, the actress explained how her long-time friendship with her That 70s Show co-star Ashton Kutcher blossomed into a relationship. “One day, it just changed,” she said. “All of a sudden, it wasn’t the same. And I was really proud of myself for acknowledging that. The best day of my life so far was the proposal. I cried. I was a mess. Not to discredit any relationships in my past, but this relationship is different.”

[Marie Claire]

TIME Parenting

Yes, Mila Kunis, WE Are Pregnant

Mila Kunis is pregnant. And so is Ashton Kutcher. (Sort of.)
Mila Kunis is pregnant. And so is Ashton Kutcher. (Sort of.) Jon Kopaloff—FilmMagic

Maybe we can't physically carry and bear that baby, but we can—and do—share in the pitfalls and joys

The road to completing our family was fraught with four years of bad luck and emotional torment. So when we finally got a positive pregnancy test and then made it to the 12-week mark, you know what I shouted to anyone who would listen?

“WE’RE PREGNANT!!”

But according to Mila Kunis, the actress and ridiculously beautiful person who is having a child with Ashton Kutcher, my words were poorly chosen and out of bounds.

Kunis, in what was actually a really funny segment on Jimmy Kimmel Live, corrected the host when Kimmel said he and his wife are pregnant and expecting a child in February. Then she launched into a fake public service announcement.

“Hi, I’m Mila Kunis with a very special message for all you soon-to-be fathers. Stop saying, ‘We’re pregnant,’” she joked. “You’re not pregnant! Do you have to squeeze a watermelon-sized person out of your lady-hole? No. Are you crying alone in your car listening to a stupid Bette Midler song? No.”

Even though I’m someone who says, “We’re pregnant,” the bit made me laugh and I thought it was well done. I even posted it to Facebook with a message saying I disagreed with the premise, but had a good laugh.

And that’s when things got ugly.

Apparently some women are very touchy about the whole “We’re pregnant” thing. Comments like “WE aren’t carrying the baby, I am!” and “YOU aren’t going to have your most holy of orifices stretched, I am!” began arriving in droves. And those women are right.

Men cannot get pregnant. Men will never know what it’s like to endure morning sickness, lose control of our bladders (when we haven’t even been drinking), or have a miniature Jean-Claude Van Damme going all Bloodsport on our internal organs. Carrying and birthing a child is something only women have to endure, and the whole process is much harder on them than on us dads.

But that’s not what “we’re pregnant” means when I say it, and it’s certainly not how my wife interprets it. (I asked her.)

“We’re pregnant” means “We’re having a baby.” It means, “As a dad, I’m excited as hell.” It means, “This is actually happening.” But most importantly, when I say “We’re pregnant,” I’m letting everyone know that even though I’m not carrying the baby, I’m fully invested.

I’ll be at all the OB visits, I’ll read the baby books, and I won’t come near you with that smelly food that doesn’t even really smell but you think it smells so I’ll eat in the basement to avoid you vomiting for the 456th time.

Even though I didn’t go through the pains of pregnancy and childbirth, I was with my wife every step. Holding her hair back through the nausea, holding her hand through contractions, and getting her Kit-Kats and grapefruit (yes, seriously) when she had cravings.

Or, think of it this way:

While I’m not a professional athlete, I am a lifelong Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots fan. Fanatic, actually. I’m a crazy person with my sports. That means I sat through the dark years of the Sox and the even darker pre-2001 era of the Patriots. I invested money in the team via tickets and merchandise, I subscribed to the local cable channel that shows the baseball games, I brought them good fortune through a bevy of “lucky” trinkets that absolutely influenced the outcome of games, and I lived and died on every pitch and play.

So despite never donning a Sox jersey or strapping on football pads, guess what I said when my favorite teams won their respective championships?

“WE’RE CHAMPIONS!!”

Even though “We’re pregnant” is technically wrong because it ignores some biological impossibilities, my wife understands and appreciates the intent behind my words. Others might feel differently, and that’s fine, too. To each his and her own.

But during a time when more dads are stepping up and heeding the clarion call for added involvement, I’m not sure striking “We’re pregnant” from the expectant-parent vernacular sends the most productive message. If you have a supportive and doting partner, is this really the hill you want to die on while quibbling over semantics?

All I know is if that + sign ever appears on that magic stick again, my wife and I will happily announce: we are pregnant. And then I’ll stock up on Kit-Kats.

Aaron Gouveia is a husband, father of two boys, and writes for his site, The Daddy Files.

TIME Parenting

7 Things to Do Before Your Kid Goes to College

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Teenager loads car for college Blend Images - Terry Vine—Getty Images/Brand X

Teaching them to do laundry and how to open a bank account are important, but don’t forget to spend time together and have fun

For the millions of parents who will send a son or daughter off to college in the fall, this is the summer of lists: making travel arrangements, picking meal plans and ordering linens and other items for the dorm.

But two lists, in particular, are of the utmost importance: One will help kids with the realities of being on their own for the first time. The other will prepare them—and you—for the emotional toll of this major milestone.

The first list is practical. As parents, we pride ourselves on getting our kids ready to leave the nest and soar on their own. But then reality sets in—and the kids land with a thump.

I remember feeling like a terrible parent when my oldest, Emma, called home at the beginning of freshman year to ask me how many stamps she needed to mail an envelope and where to buy them.

My good friend, Mindy, says she felt like a failure when her daughter called to ask, “Do you separate laundry by weight?”

Another friend, Ruth, who has seen three children through college, recalled a litany of first-year cluelessness: “How do you know what light bulbs to buy?” “How do I send a box by mail?” “How do I find a dentist?” “I think I broke my foot. Did I?”

Whether such ineptitude is a byproduct of us having overindulged our kids is beside the point. No need to beat yourself up now. Just use this summer to teach a few of life’s basic skills—and save yourself some panicky late-night calls, not to mention feelings of parental inadequacy.

  1. Teach them to do laundry and then insist that they do their own—clothing, sheets and towels—for the entire summer. By the time they get to college with a roll of quarters in hand, they’ll have the hang of it.
  2. Teach them the basics of banking—how to use an ATM card, how to write a check (or make a payment online), how to deposit money and how to balance their account. As an added bonus, then ask them to teach you how to use Venmo.
  3. Teach them how to navigate public transportation. Most kids go off to college without access to a car, and obviously they won’t have you to schlep them places. If they don’t already know, teach them how to get around on buses, subways and trains, and then take away the car keys for a while so that they gain confidence.
  4. Teach them how to cook a few things. While most freshmen are on some kind of meal plan, knowing how to cook at college can come in handy. Many dorms have communal kitchens, and it can be fun to occasionally make a meal and eat with friends. And just in case your kid ends up living off campus at some point, knowing his or her way around the kitchen will be useful. Plus, making a point of cooking and eating together a few times a week over the summer is a nice way of spending time together as a family.

That said, don’t be surprised if the last thing your teen wants to do is hang out with you. As I wrote at the time, the summer before my daughter left for college, she went AWOL. As far as I was concerned, Emma went out with her friends too much, spent too much time at her boyfriend’s house and stayed out way too late.

Over time, I came to understand that Emma’s uncharacteristic rebellion and moodiness were her ways of “soiling the nest.” In order to make it easier for her to leave in the fall, she was going to make my husband and I so miserable that we couldn’t wait for her to go. In other words, she was doing exactly what she was supposed to do—getting ready to grow up and out.

Given all this, emotions can run high, so as promised, here are a few more tips to make it easier to let your son or daughter go:

  1. Make sure your grad sets aside some one-on-one time with you, your spouse and any sisters or brothers, and does so regularly through the summer. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it’s fun. (This does not include going to Bed Bath & Beyond to buy stuff for college.) Head on a hike, take a walk on the beach, go out for lunch or coffee, watch a movie—whatever makes sense for your family.
  2. If you can manage it, take a family vacation. It doesn’t have to be anywhere fancy (and can even be a long weekend away). My friend Ellie and her husband, David, took their kids on a road trip up the California coast before their eldest went off to college. “All the kids have said it was their favorite trip we ever did,” Ellie says.
  3. Buy them one beautiful thing. This advice comes from Lisa Heffernan, cofounder of Grown and Flown, a parenting blog for teens and older children. “This moment, these last days, are worthy of commemorating,” she says. “Do not let them slip by unmarked. Jewelry and watches are traditional choices for senior year, but beauty and meaning, not expense, are the salient factors in this purchase.”

On that front, I indulged Emma—something I don’t usually do. I bought her a somewhat extravagant comforter for her bed at school to make her feel cozy, comfortable and at home. It was my way of tucking her in from afar.

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