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On Their Own: What Every Teen Needs to Launch A Life

Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Money, Jobs, & College

You bought the laptop, the cell phone, and the extra long twin sheets.  Your teen is ready to start college or move out to take a job of her own. What else? When you send that first Care Package, what can you include that will bring a smile and demonstrate that you know what’s going on?

Here are some thoughts.

A Frisbee. Even if your child is not athletic (maybe especially if she’s not athletic) carrying a Frisbee across the lawn is as good a way of finding new friends as walking a cute puppy.  Anyone can throw a disc and there’s no shame in not being very good at this.  A regulation-size disc (not a toy for children) will be welcome by just about any young adult.

A pillow. If your child forgot to take his own pillow from home, send this right away. Nothing can replace it. But a new pillow, a neck pillow, a body pillow – any of these – will signal comfort. And comfort is the one thing everyone who is on his own needs. A pillow is always welcome.

A roll of quarters.  Everyone who is on her own understands that the value of a quarter far exceeds 25-cents. A quarter can be the missing link between dirty laundry and clean, dry clothes. It’s what’s needed to get a kid where she’s going when she needs bus fare.  But no one ever has the right number of quarters at any one time – except your kid, who has an entire roll.

A gift card to the local pizza place or coffee shop. Do a little homework – what decent eateries are nearby and what’s the average amount of a meal or snack?  Nearly every hangout offers a gift card and your child will think good thoughts about you every time he uses it. Be aware of any prejudice against chain outlets or other locations, though. Your child’s friends may be enthusiastic supporters of a local mom-and-pop shop over the nationwide ones. If in doubt, ask. Then send a gift card.

A gift card to the movies. You know how costly seeing a movie can be, so send a card that covers the price of admission, popcorn and soda for two (you didn’t expect your kid to go alone, did you?). Figure out where the local theatre is that offers first-run films. Just about all of them offer gift certificates.

Keep in mind that while the thought is nice, your child likely doesn’t want a constant stream of goodies from you. It’s harder for your child to establish his independence (in his own mind and in the mind of his friends), if he’s being bombarded with boxes from you. So keep it small and occasional and thoughtful. Send not what you’d like to receive but what your child would like to receive.

Also, it’s not all that far from here to the Thanksgiving holiday. Your kid will likely show up in time for turkey and the trimmings. She can load up on all the big things she needs then.

© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.

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Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Dr. Patricia Anderson is a nationally acclaimed educational psychologist and the author of “Parenting: A Field Guide.” Dr. Anderson is on the Early Childhood faculty at Walden University and she is a Contributing Editor for Advantage4Parents.