Navigating the Sandwich
Kill Your College Drop-Off Anxiety: 8 Helpful Tips
College drop off, like every ritual this year, is weird. But there are smart things you can do to increase your child’s chance of staying healthy and staying at school
Around this time last year, my husband and I drove our oldest child to college for her freshman move-in day. We spent weeks looking at checklists and ordering stuff. I had micro-sad moments along the way, like tearing up in the checkout line of Bed, Bath & Beyond as the cashier swiped hypoallergenic pillow inserts and I fumbled for my 20% off coupon. I knew drop-off day was going to be hard for me and that I was really going to miss her. We moved her into her dorm room in a sweaty rush, started helping her unpack, built some Ikea storage stuff, flipped her bed frame to make it loft-like, and took her out for lunch. Then we grocery shopped and grabbed a few more storage solution items at a mall. When it was time to say goodbye, I sobbed but squeaked out, “I love you, I’m proud of you, and I’m so happy for you.”
A year later, I wish all I had to consider was feeling the void of her boisterous presence at home. But there is so much more to navigate in 2020. Does she have enough masks? If she gets sick, can we pick her up and isolate her at home instead of sending her to the quarantine dorm? How will she manage to successfully take all of her intermediate engineering classes online?
So many friends are dropping off kids at college campuses around the country right now. Each college or university is handling things differently, and you can’t help but compare how your kid’s school is doing something to how other institutions are operating. At some schools, the amount of stuff you can move in and the time in which you can unload has been severely slashed. They don’t want parents in the dorms much this year. At other schools, kids are isolated on campus in dorms for two weeks, and the school is doing door-to-door meal drops. At another big state school here in Florida, kids are COVID-tested before moving in. The different policies and protocols add to an overall sense of inconsistency and a lack of control. Wherever the school, whatever the protocols, parents don’t have the luxury I did last year to just be sad that your kid is growing up and you’re going to miss them.
Last year, I turned to two parent Facebook groups through my daughter’s university for information. This year in these groups I’m seeing some surprising ways to deal with some of the anxiety parents are having around sending children back to college.
Here are the best takeaways:
- Pack a COVID-19 bag. Kind of like a go-to-the-hospital bag when you were pregnant, it’s got a pair of jammies, a couple pairs of clean undies, a set of grooming basics, an extra laptop charger and phone charger. If they get stuck in the infirmary, they can call their roomie and say,“Grab my purple duffel bag.”
- Create a set of Mom Drawers. Take an inexpensive clear plastic set of drawers on wheels, and label the drawers cold/flu/pain relief; stomach trouble; hydration; first aid…you get the gist. Whether or not your kid dips into it, you’ll feel better knowing it’s in their room.
- Hire a professional cleaning service to sterilize an off-campus townhouse/condo a few days before move in. Pricey, but thorough. After seeing some photos this morning of the condition of some of the off-campus apartments at my kid’s school, I’m thinking this could be worth every penny.
- Sign up for Durable Power of Attorney and HIPPA Authorization forms through Mama Bear Legal Forms. If you want to be even more thorough, look into Health Care Surrogate Forms and a Living Will. Have your child keep copies of the signed docs on their phone somewhere easy to access, and keep another set of copies on your phone and at home.
I also talked to two doctors for more ways to lower your parental anxiety about sending kids back to college campuses this year. Here’s what Shieva Ghofrany, MD, an ob/gyn in private practice in Stamford, CT (and a mom of three whose oldest is 16 and whose twin nephews are heading off to Boston College), has to say about tweaking your worry-filled mindset:
“One trick I have is the car driving analogy: Every day you get into a car you are making a risk vs. benefit analysis, whether or not you think about it. You can control the risk by putting on a seat belt, not texting and driving, not drinking and driving, making sure your brakes and tires are regularly checked. Your chances of having a fender bender are still there, but the likelihood of a catastrophic car accident is teensy, and you will most likely survive that even if hospitalized. This thought model is something we bought into over time. If you can apply this mindset to the risk of your college-age child getting really sick from Corona and having long-term complications or death, you can work toward understanding that their risk is relatively small.”
Up next, Christine Bishara, MD, a primary care doctor in New York City, is a mom of three, with her eldest heading to New York University this fall. During quarantine, Dr. Bishara was interested in why young people seemed less impacted by COVID-19. She published a study in the June 2020 edition of the American Journal of Translational Medicine that looked at the gut bacteria of people under 20 and the correlation with lower COVID-19 rates. She found that “70 percent of our immune system is in our gut. Kids have a specific strain that is higher concentration but it’s much lower in the elderly or overweight or diabetic. Kids might be more protected because of their gut bacteria, and specifically bifidum bacteria, which may be tied to protecting the immune pathways that COVID-19 attacks.”
Her tips for keeping college kids healthy include:
- Encourage them to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables for antioxidant and vitamin benefits. If you’re not confident about their campus meal plan, order them weekly batches of fresh produce from a store that’s local to them at school and have it delivered through Instacart.
- Load them up on vitamin C, an antioxidant that works to neutralize free radicals and keep them from doing harm. They should take 500 mg daily.
- Increase their vitamin D3 intake. This plays a role in immunity and helps the gut. They should take at least 1,000 units daily.
- Push the probiotics. There are OTC versions with the Bifidobacterium strain. She recommends at least 15 billion colony forming units (CFUs) of those.
Christina Cush is a freelance writer living in Florida. She is married and mom to three teens and a rescue mutt. Check out her work at Sea Glass Communications.