The Best Back to School Tips for Teens and Parents

The Best Back to School Tips for Teens and Parents

The Best Back to School Tips for Teens and Parents


Can you believe it is already time to get ready to go Back to School? Even though the 2020-2021 school year is still not certain for many teens and parents all over the country, it is time to prepare for something… Kids will need to set up to learn whether that is online, in their schools, or a combination or the two.

If they are headed into their junior year of high school, it is time to get serious about what they are going to do after high school, especially if they are college-bound.

To help you as you prepare for the new school year, I have gotten together with some of my fellow bloggers and prepared the Best Back to School Tips for Teens and Parents. 

back to school tips for teens and parents

The Best Back to School Tips for Teens and Parents


The best teen and college preparation bloggers around have written posts to help you get organized, get school supplies, and start preparing those high school kids for college.



Going back to school can be super stressful for both teens and their parents. Nancy from Raising Teens Today gives 5 Tips to Conquer Back to School Stress.

Louisa, a teacher, tutor, mom, and owner of LPTutoring knows what school supplies are really needed and how to get good deals on them. She shares Back to School Shopping for Teens.

Ready to get help your ADHD (or any) teen get organized? Dana E. Baker of Parenting in Real Life knows what it takes. Read Help Your Child Get and Stay Organized for School.

Here are 5 Amazing Organizational Apps for Teens from Kira of Parenting Teens and Tweens.



Miranda of Reluctant Cowgirl has a free downloadable Parent-Child School Contract in her post 10 Steps to Help Your Teenager Succeed in School.

Dana Baker is a parent and teen coach. She has several posts about teen parenting including Six Ways to Survive Being 24/7 with Your Teen,  8 Life Skills Your Teen Needs Now, Help Your Teen Be More Likeable, Not Popular, and Mom Tips for Surviving the High School Senior Year .

Speaking of that senior year…. There are many costs associated with having a senior. Check out my post High School Senior Year Costs with suggestions for both high and low options for paying for the year.

Melanie of Parenting High Schoolers knows that navigating high school with your child can be like riding a roller coaster. She has a FREE Parent Survival Kit just for the high school moms. Check out her High School Survival Kit for Parents and The Ultimate List of Conversations to Help Your Teen through High School.

Melanie also has tips for Middle School Parents in Middle School: Advice for Success

Anxiety in teens is a real problem. Shannon of Skip to My Life gives tips for Helping Your Gen Z Child with Anxiety.

Also check out these Best Homework Apps to Help Your Child Succeed from Sunshine and Hurricanes


One of the challenges of high school is that college is not far behind. Monica of How2winscholarships knows that the sooner you begin applying for scholarships, the more your child will win. Read her tips in How to Start the College Scholarship Process.

Teens and parents have more than just high school on their minds. They also have to plan for their futures after high school. Miranda of The Reluctant Cowgirl has an awesome post with 3 Tips to Motivating Teens to Apply for College and for Scholarships

Be sure to download the Almost Empty Nest Planning for College Checklists which include Junior Year, Summer Before Senior Year and Senior Year of High School Checklists.

Loren Kelly is a career coach. She assists students with career planning, academic success, and work-based learning experiences such as internships and apprenticeships. Check out her post High School Seniors: Career Planning Tips.


Blessings to you all as you begin getting ready for your teens to go back to school and follow the best back to school tips for teens and parents.


Get your FREE copy of the Planning for College Checklists - Junior Year, Summer Before Senior Year, Senior Year, FAFSA, CSS-Profile, Scholarships, Dorm Shopping, Packing for the Move, and the Parent Survival Kit for College Drop Off and the Glossary of College Admissions Terms.

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What to do if your College Student has a Medical Emergency

What to do if your College Student has a Medical Emergency

What to do if your College Student has a Medical Emergency


It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. A call from your child (or worse, a call from someone else) explaining symptoms or injury requiring immediate medical attention. Preparing ahead of time and having a few things at your fingertips  (like a HIPAA authorization form) will help you stay calm if your College Student has a Medical Emergency.

We received this kind of phone call from our son 3 years ago. It was 3:30 in the morning and he had awakened with shaking chills, fever, and terrible lower abdominal pain. Less than an hour later he had been diagnosed with an appendicitis and my husband was on the road for the six hour drive to be with him.

What to Do if Your College Student has a Medical Emergency

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney, physician, or college official. Please do not consider this post as medical or legal advice or as an explanation of any school’s policies. Please contact the appropriate people for further clarification. 


Here are some steps to preparing for and handling, in the moment, a medical emergency involving your child who does not live near you:


Before your College Student has a Medical Emergency:

Make sure they have their health insurance card in an easily accessible place.

Either call your health insurer or carefully read the materials from your health insurer concerning seeking care in another city/state. Find out if there are “in-network” health care providers and facilities in the new college town. Our son is in another state, so fortunately, our health insurer allows us to seek emergency care anywhere and it will be classified as “in network” for the deductible and out-of-pocket portions of the bill. If there are “in-network” facilities where your child lives and your student goes somewhere else, you could be in for a large bill.

Consider executing a HIPAA release and a medical power of attorney with your child. Once your child is 18, you will need YOUR CHILD’S PERMISSION to access their medical information.  Hospitals and doctors are not allowed to discuss your child’s medical care with you without signed consent. I recently interviewed a physician about HIPAA forms and here is his take:

Every institution will prefer their own forms for HIPAA purposes, but it is a good idea for the person who will be making the decisions and/or paying the bill to have an executed HIPAA form on file to fax or e-mail if the medical provider/institution will not give you adequate information, especially over the phone. If the patient is unconscious, the provider will talk to the next of kin, but that can sometimes be difficult to determine. Divorces and other family situations can complicate “the next of kin” issue.

Tell your child to put you as the emergency contact and as a person with whom health care providers may share medical information when filling out ANY AND ALL medical forms.

Have your child fill our whatever forms they need to with the insurer before they go to college, so that you can discuss their bills with the insurer. Even though you are the “insured” and are paying the bills, an insurer is also not allowed to discuss their bills with you without their consent. This was a bit of an issue with us because our son needed to give notice within 24 hours of his emergency to get in network benefits. We ultimately got it straightened out and were given the correct benefits, but did have to argue a bit that we tried several times to call them. They were arguing that the notice had to be from our son!

Discuss with your child what campus clinics, urgent cares, free-standing ERs, and hospitals are available. Do you have an opinion about where they seek care?

If possible, select a local friend or family member, who can act as the emergency contact until you arrive.



Understand what a HIPAA and Medical Power Of Attorney Do and Do Not Do:

I have seen post after post and thread after thread with misunderstandings about HIPAA forms and Medical Powers of Attorney. These documents WILL NOT get you a call from a medical institution, the student’s dorm, or anyone else if your student is ill or seeks care. These forms will get you information WHEN YOU ASK FOR INFORMATION. 

There is not a place for you to file these forms on campus. You keep them with you and produce them should you ever need them to access information about your student.

A Medical Power of Attorney only goes into effect if the student is incapaciated and unable to make medical decisions for themselves.

As an adult, your student may also revoke your access to their medical information anytime they wish.

Remember: the student you send to college is just as much an adult in the eyes of the law as you are. It may seem crazy, but that is the way it is.


Communication with your student is everything

Discuss these issues with them before they go to school. Make sure they understand how limited your information will be without their cooperation. We have the kind of kids who call with every hangnail, but I have heard stories of kids who really want to adult and try to handle situations on their own that they really need help with.

Ask them to put you as the emergency contact on all of their forms, so if someone is looking for someone to call, they can contact  you.

Ask them if it would be ok for their roommate or other friend to call you if they are taken to the hospital or the friend judges it to be an emergency.

Assure them that whatever the issue is, they are not going to be in trouble for making you a part of a medical emergency even if the circumstances that led to the medical emergency are not something you would normally be happy about.

Try not to be too panicky or overly controlling when discussing these issues with your student. Most kids do not want surgery or serious testing without the support of their parents, but they may start to desire some privacy about mental health and other sensitive issues. Tell them that you trust them to call you when they need help.

What to do when you receive “the call”:

Determine what action your child should take when they call with “symptoms.” After 18 years, you are probably pretty good at interpreting your child’s voice and level of drama. Some kids will call hysterical because they have a splinter. Others will call and say, “I decided to jump off my raised bed and I fell on my arm. My arm is now a weird shape. Do you think I should show it to the pre-med student down the hall or do you think it is nothing?” (If it is just a splinter, send them to the first aid kit from The Best First Aid Kit for College.)

If you decide they should seek medical attention, remind them to take their insurance card with them and to PUT YOU AS THE EMERGENCY CONTACT and person to whom the doctor may give medical information.

Boys do not like to ask for help even if they are in incredible pain. But, depending on the situation, encourage your child to have a friend drive them. Our son drove himself to a free standing ER. The free standing ER made him call a friend to take him to the hospital. We are extremely grateful for the young man who came to his side at 4:00am.

The next step is the toughest: wait by the phone for your child or a doctor to call with news of what is wrong and what the next steps will be.

Find your HIPAA form in case you need it.

If you have a local friend or family member who can stay with your child until you get there, call them.

Plane, train, or automobile it to your child’s side.

Another mom’s experience (What if my child is unconscious?):

I recently interviewed my friend Rexann, who received this kind of call from an ER doctor. Her son played baseball for his college and had collapsed during a workout. He spent over a month in the ICU after a heatstroke and experiencing the breakdown of his muscles from a condition called rhabdomyolysis. He has since recovered thanks to the excellent care he received and the prayers of family, friends, and strangers far and near.

Rexann says they did not have an executed HIPAA document, but had no trouble receiving information from the doctors at the hospital even over the phone. The drive to the hospital was about 8 hours and she received information even on the way.

She had the same experience we did with her insurance company. They said they did not have permission to talk to her about her son because he was over 18. After repeatedly explaining to them that he was unconscious, they finally relented and talked to her about the financial side of things.

I also asked her if she had any advice for parents who find themselves in this situation. She said that there is no way to really prepare for the moment you receive that kind of call. As a sports mom she had dealt with many injuries and issues over the years and was not initially concerned to hear from an ER. Her only advice was to  stay calm because you will receive better information and the hospital staff will respond better to a calm person. 

Knowing What to do if your College Student has a Medical Emergency is a necessary part of the college preparation process. Neither you nor your student wants to be in this situation, but sometimes it is unavoidable. Take the necessary steps to be prepared.


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The Complete Guide to Paying for College

The Complete Guide to Paying for College

The Complete Guide to Paying for College


Paying for College is a topic parents need to consider whether their child is in diapers or is currently enrolled in college. There are many options for paying for college, including saving through 529 accounts or Roth IRAs, scholarships, grants, financial aid, current income, and loans. Most college educations will be paid for with a combination of these methods. The Complete Guide to Paying for College explains all of these payment options.

For more information about paying for college see:

Paying for College Resources

How to Complete your FAFSA

Tax Credits and Deductions for Parents of College Students

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, see the full disclosure in the foot bar.  

Paying for College 101

There are five main ways to pay for college:




Work Study


If we all could choose a way to pay for our child’s college, it would be through scholarships. 


 Some schools offer a tremendous amount of merit based scholarships and others give mostly need based aid. It will pay to compare the types of scholarships and aid offered at a variety of schools. The difference in packages can be in the tens of thousands.


University-based scholarships are usually merit-based and do not have to paid back.

Scholarships are wonderful chunks of change falling from the sky and into your child’s bursar account. Some scholarships are awarded automatically by the school for certain test scores or other achievements, however most scholarships require an application. Search the college website of all of the schools your child is interested in attending to find out information about qualifying for and applying for their scholarships.

Follow the instructions exactly and apply early!! 


Another option is private scholarships. 

Your family can SAVE money by having the kids pay for their own college. Check out these two scholarship resources:

The Scholarship System 

How to Win Scholarships

Scholarships for Upperclassmen: Some scholarships are only offered to upperclassmen. Continue to search for scholarships from both the university and private sources as they continue their education.

Grants are another awesome way to pay for college.

Unless you have enough money saved or have enough current income to fully fund your child’s education, chances are you are going to find yourself filling out the FAFSA.


FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Go to the FAFSA website to file your FAFSA and to learn more about it. Do not pay anyone to file your fafsa. It is a free application and can be completed online at the .gov website. See my post How to Complete Your FAFSA for a checklist of items to gather before you begin. How to Complete Your FAFSA also includes a list of the terms you will need to know to complete your filing.

The FAFSA gives you access to grants, work-study jobs, and loans. 

  • Grants are usually need-based and do not need to be repaid. They can be awarded by colleges, states, the federal government, public and private organizations, and professional associations. You will find out if you have been awarded any federal, state, or university based grants on your university’s Financial Aid Award Letter.

Federal Grants:

  • Federal Pell Grants  go to the most needy families and have a maximum amount of $6345 for the 2020-2021 school year. For more information see the studentaid.ed.gov website.
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) are awarded to students with exceptional financial need. Amounts are between $100 and $4000 per year.
  • Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant are for undergraduate and graduate students who agree to teach a high-need subject in a low income area. Failure to complete the service requirement will revert the grant to a loan that must be repaid.
  • Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants are awarded to students whose parent or guardian was killed performing military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after 9/11/01. The student must be ineligible for a Pell Grant and under the age of 24 at the time of the death.

State Grants

  • State grants operate similarly to federal grants, but are awarded by a student’s home state. Programs vary by state, but most state grants are awarded based on the FAFSA. Check with your home state and college for details on any other documentation or applications needed to apply for state grants.

Non-Government Grants

  • Non-government grants can be researched the same way as scholarships. I highly recommend The Scholarship System as a resource for researching scholarships and grants.

Federal Work-study is a federally funded program that allows your student to work part-time to help pay college expenses. 

  • Federal work-study is available to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students with financial need.

The most popular way to save for college is through a 529 account. There are two types of 529 accounts. One is a savings plan and the other is a prepaid planAll fifty states and the District of Columbia sponsor at least one type of 529 plan.

  • 529 Savings Plans: 529 savings plans allow you to save money in an investment account specifically to pay for tuition and room and board expenses for the beneficiary of the account. Many states give a tax benefit for in-state investors. The money grows tax-free and is withdrawn at the time of need tax-free.
  • 529 Prepaid Plans: Some states allow you to prepay college tuition for instate schools, locking in the cost of college at the time of payment. If you KNOW your child is going to State U, then this could be a good idea.

Roth IRAs can also be used to pay for college. If you are not sure you want to specifically earmark savings for college, then a Roth IRA may be a good option. The money put in a Roth is taxed up-front and allowed to grow tax-free. You may withdraw the principal and earnings from the account after age 59 1/2 without taxes or penalty.

You may withdraw the principal of a Roth IRA account to pay college tuition without paying additional taxes or a penalty. You may withdraw the earnings of the account without paying a penalty, but you will have to pay tax on it. It is probably not the best way to save for college, given the restrictions on withdrawal, but it does give you more long term flexibility and more investment options. If your child is already in college or about to attend and you have a Roth IRA, you may have found some extra dollars to put toward the cost. (Consider how this affects your retirement planning before making the withdrawal.)

Download the FREE Paying for College Budget Binder

Your Financial Aid Award Letter also tells you about the loans you are eligible for. 

There are three types of federal student loans.

  • Direct Subsidized Loan: These loans are need-based and have a maximum annual award of $3500 for the 2020-2021 year. They usually do not accrue interest while the student is enrolled in school.
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loan: These loans are not need-based. Although Interest accrues the entire length of the loan, the interest rate is less than a private or PLUS loan.
  • Direct PLUS Loan:  These loans have a higher interest rate than the Direct Unsubsidized loans and the parent must qualify for the loan. The limit is the estimated cost of attendance less any other financial aid awarded.

Private loans are also an option. I have not investigated private loans. Offers that look a lot like credit card offers have come to us in the mail. I do not know if they are a good option or not. If you are considering a private loan, I would carefully compare all terms of the loans with the terms of the federal loans. You can also compare private student loan terms with a Home Equity Loan or Line of Credit.

Paying for college is no easy matter. You will most likely need a combination of the above options to cover the complete cost. Save as early as you can. Apply for all the scholarships and aid you can and then sit down with your student and make the best decision possible about where they should attend and where you should send your money.

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4 Crucial Talks to Have with Your College Bound Child


The Dorm Shopping Checklist is TOTALLY FREE for members of the Almost Empty Nest Community!

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4 Crucial Topics to Discuss Before Your Child Leaves for College


This is a guest post by Cyndee Ownbey of Women’s Ministry Toolbox.

As we navigated the first few months of our son’s freshman year of college, we quickly discovered our pre-college preparations were strong in some areas and lacking in others.

We failed to establish a communication plan and the monthly allowance we established wasn’t working as expected. And while I thought those years doing laundry had properly prepared him, I had failed to explain what settings I used on the washing machine and why.

If you’re launching your child out of the nest this fall, I pray the list that follows will encourage some beneficial conversations in your home and family.  We learned it’s much better to discuss and establish expectations now, rather than trying to negotiate them via phone and text once your child is at school.

4 Crucial Topics to Discuss Before You Child Leaves for College


  • Money

    Who’s going to pay for what?

Will your daughter or son receive a weekly or monthly allowance? What expenses should be covered by their allowance? Do they need a grocery budget? Will you pay for their gas to travel back and forth from home to school? Haircuts? Toiletries? Cell phone bills? Meals off campus?

Settle money decisions in advance, but agree to make needed adjustments regularly.

[Laura: You can help make a budget for college with your student using the Paying for College Spreadsheet.]


  • Communication

    How often will you call and text each other?

During our son’s first week at school, he suggested we agree on a day and time each week to catch up via phone. He decided Sunday evenings worked best for his schedule. If either of us can’t make that day or time work, we reschedule for as soon as possible.

One of my friends has implemented a “Proof of Life” requirement for her boys. They know when mom texts “POL” they must quickly respond with a photo of themselves. It gives her peace of mind to see their smiling faces and helps them to be aware that they haven’t been in touch recently. They often send POL photos without prompting even recently surprising their mom that the older was visiting his brother at his campus. They’ve all found a way to have fun with it while honoring their parents’ request.

Take into account your child’s personality. You may hear from your child multiple times a day or hardly at all. Trust that they will reach out when they need you and don’t hesitate to let them know you’re praying for them.


  • Skills

    What skills do they need to master before they leave?

Laundry tops the list of skills your child needs to master before they leave the nest. Our oldest had been doing his laundry for several years, but machines with different settings and different capacities can trip them up. If you can remember, try to take a look at their washer and dryer before you leave campus and take a quick photo so you’ll be able to direct them if questions come up. Teach them how to iron, too, as there are events they may choose to attend that require pressed pants or dress shirts.

Even if your son or daughter is on the unlimited dining plan, basic cooking skills come in handy. Arm them with knowledge about what can and can’t be used or cooked in the microwave (no metal or aluminum foil!). Can they boil an egg or a pot of water for spaghetti? We tend to overlook such things as greasing pans, tell-tale signs of ripe fruit, expiration dates, and how to handle raw meat.  

If your child is taking their car to campus review or teach them how to check the air pressure on their tire, change a flat, and jump their car battery. A first aid kit, jumper cables, and a tire pressure gauge make great graduation gifts!


  • Drinking, dating, and other legal issues

    Is your child prepared to navigate social and ethical issues that arise?

While it’s tempting to launch the conversation with a stern lecture on what is and isn’t acceptable by law and in your family, questions make much better conversation starters. Ask your son or daughter how they plan to handle different circumstances and situations. What would they do if they were asked to ride in a car with someone who has been drinking or were offered a drink at a party even though they are underage? How might they respond to unwanted sexual advances or deal with being stranded without a ride?

While we cannot force our children to honor our household rules or even the laws of the land, they need to know where we stand and what is right. Their safety is our number one priority no matter what choices they’ve made, and they need to know they can call if they are in trouble. Unconditional love is not without appropriate consequences at the appropriate time.

Help your daughter or son to devise an exit strategy. While we pray they don’t find themselves in a situation that requires an immediate or necessary exit, having a plan in place will allow them to exit quickly and successfully. Some families have implemented the “x” text plan in which the daughter or son texts their parent an “x” and they immediately respond with an “emergency” phone call that requires they leave immediately. In college, I found myself in a potentially dangerous situation in downtown Nashville over spring break. Suddenly realizing I was in over my head, I faked an upset stomach and escaped to safety.

Your bird is already anxious to spread their wings and leave the nest and may think they know it all, but you have the wisdom of experience that can be shared in a compassionate and caring manner that may help smooth their flight. May God guide your conversations and preparations.


Cyndee Ownbey is grateful to God for strengthening her faith and prayer life during these sometimes tumultuous college years. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband and their younger son, a high school junior. Their oldest son will be entering his senior year of college in the fall. Cyndee is a speaker, writer, and encourager for women’s ministry leaders at her site Women’s Ministry Toolbox.

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More from Almost Empty Nest:

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New Apartment Checklist

New Apartment Checklist

New Apartment Checklist



It’s time to move out of the dorm and get an apartment!!! I have compiled a complete New Apartment Checklist to assist you as you navigate the aisles of IKEA, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and order online. And best of all, the list is printable!! I have gone through stocking apartments with my sons and now my daughter will move into her first apartment this fall. They have lived in both furnished and unfurnished apartments. When we needed to furnish the apartments, we bought furniture from IKEA, Craig’s List listings, Amazon, and the Container Store.

The New Apartment Checklist printable is part of the Almost Empty Nest Member’s Library. Sign up below!


Also check out:

Back to College: The Essential Guide

First Apartment Care Package – A kitchen care package with recipes

New Apartment Care Package – A cleaning bucket with supplies and printable cleaning checklist

College Apartment Recipes

Adulting: 7 Expenses to Consider When You Enter the Real World

New Apartment Checklist

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, I will receive (at no additional cost to you) a small commission, which helps pay for this blog. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Here are some items to consider as you shop and gather items for your apartment. You will not necessarily need everything on this list. 

Furniture you may need for your new apartment:

Some apartments will be completely furnished, some partially furnished, and some will not have any furniture all. IKEA and Craig’s List are great places to get reasonably priced furniture.

  • Mattress: We have bought 2 of these mattresses. They are easy to ship, a great price, and are very comfortable.
  • Bedframe
  • Nightstand
  • Dresser
  • Desk
  • Desk Chair
  • Armoire (if there is not a closet)
  • Dining table and chairs and/or barstools
  • Couch
  • Chairs
  • TV
  • TV stand
  • Coffee table/end tables



  • Skillet
  • Sauce Pan
  • Mulitpot
  • Crockpot
  • Indoor Grill:  My sons have used their indoor grills more than any other appliance. It is an easy and quick way to grill chicken breasts, cook hamburgers, make grilled cheese sandwiches, etc.)
  • Airfryer: A great apartment cooking gadget. Great for heating frozen food to crispy perfection. It is also an easy place to cook one chicken breast. We love ours and my daughter wants one for her apartment.
  • A Cookbook like How to Cook Everything: The Basics
  • Mixing Bowls
  • Cutting Board
  • Measuring Cups and Spoons
  • Chef’s Knife
  • Paring Knife
  • Cooking Utensil Set
  • Can Opener
  • Pot Holders or Mits
  • Cookie Sheet
  • Pizza Pan
  • Silverware
  • Drinking Glasses
  • Mugs
  • Plates
  • Bowls
  • Coffee Maker
  • Toaster
  • Microwave (Check to see if the apartment provides one.)
  • Paper Towel Holder
  • Strainer
  • Dish Soap
  • Dish brush or sponge
  • Dishwasher Detergent
  • Food Storage
  • Trash Can
  • Trash Bags

Living Room

  • Streaming device and/or antenna. What is this antenna thing you ask? Back in the dark ages, it was all we had. Now you can use one to watch network television without cable or a paid streaming service. 
  • Lamps
  • Rug

Bedroom (***Check the size of the bed if the apartment is furnished. Some are twin XL and some are full-size)

Ideas from the Container Store

These modular drawers can be used under sinks, under beds, or to create a drawer unit

This Turn-It Organizer is also great in a bathroom cabinet. It is a lazy susan, so you can access items easier.

My daughter and I love our real acrylic makeup organizers. They can be configured to exactly fit your needs.

Ideas from the Container Store

Hanging Storage for sweaters, purses, and other items

Ideas from the Container Store

Cleaning Supplies

  • Vacuum
  • Bucket with cleaners and rags or sponges
  • Broom and dustpan
  • Swiffer


Storage Ideas

  • Shelving unit
  • Underbed storage
  • Storage Furniture (These Poppin box seats support 275 pounds and can be collapsed when not in use.)
  • Drawer organizers
  • Stacking drawers (I LOVE these modular drawers that can be configured to meet your exact storage needs. See 25 Dorm Room Ideas and Shopping Tips for a picture of my daughter’s modular drawer set.)
  • Elfa drawers (These are amazing, come in many sizes, can be customized and will last forever. We have had some of our Elfa units for over 20 years. They will go from your child’s dorm room to their first apartment to their first place after graduation and beyond. They are also great for packing in.)

Ideas from the Container Store

Health and Safety

To Make the Apartment Comfortable and Personal


Other Practical items

The first goal of setting up an apartment is to purchase just enough items to make the apartment comfortable and functional, but not more than you need. The New Apartment Checklist. It is available in the Printables Library. Take it with you to the store or use it as you order online.

It can be helpful to have the dimensions of apartment rooms, closets, cabinets, and any furniture provided. If you have this information, take advantage of it, and plan out the room. If not, work with whatever information you have knowing that you can always go to the store or order additional items after you move in.


Best wishes as you and your child take on the adventure of a New Apartment.


Free Printable Apartment Checklist available in the Printables Library.

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How to Celebrate Your Senior When Everything is Cancelled

How to Celebrate Your Senior When Everything is Cancelled

How to Celebrate Your Senior When Everything is Cancelled


OK, Moms and Dad. It is time to get creative. The High School Senior Class of 2020 is graduating without most of the pomp and circumstance, tradition, and parties that would normally celebrate the season. There is still hope that some activities will still happen especially in areas of the country where school does not end until June. Here in Oklahoma things are looking pretty bleak, as we have not reached the “peak of the curve” yet and graduation, prom, and everything senior usually occurs in April and May.

So, let’s talk about How to Celebrate Your Senior When Everything is Cancelled. I have scoured the internet and friends’ brains for ideas and listed them below.

And these kids deserve some GOOD Presents this year, so check out the Ultimate Graduation Gift Guide.

Read the words of some senior moms as they share their thoughts, concerns, and hope for their seniors in Senior Moms Speak.

How to Celebrate Your Senior When Everything is Cancelled

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Spring Sports

The first things that were cancelled were the spring sport seasons and in some cases, like basketball, the end of the winter sports season. In Oklahoma the kids played basketball up until the state tournament and then that was cancelled. No championships for these kids. There were a few track meets, and then track was cancelled. And no baseball at all.

Some baseball moms in my area decided to decorate their front doors with their sons’ baseball jerseys and hats to commemorate the season that wasn’t. Read the words of one of these moms here. This is her front door:


Graduation Parties

While still not the same as getting to hug your friends, a front yard “Drive By” Graduation Party is possible. Decorate your front yard with balloons, signs, and pictures of the graduate and invite all of your family and friends to “Drive By.” I have seen a number of videos of Drive By parties. My favorite is this one put on by fans of Kim Mulkey, the Baylor Women’s Basketball Coach, after she was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame. I tear up every time I watch it.

Your senior may not be celebrating an induction into a hall of fame, but they deserve to feel like it. Big overtures are everything right now. 


Decorate your yard. Some schools are giving the kids signs for their yards. My friend Jennifer K of Frisco, Texas shows off her 2020 senior and their yard sign.

More Ideas for Celebrating Graduation

One senior mom who shared her thoughts on all the cancellations here plans to ask family and friends to FLOOD her daughter with cards. With everything going virtual, having something tangible like cards to hold onto will be special.

Order in or make a special dinner for your senior on the original night of the graduation.

Be sure to support your local bakery and get a cake, cookies, or other special dessert.

If you host a virtual party, make it fun. Have a costume contest or a wallpaper background contest. Minted has free virtual backgrounds for all occasions – even graduation.

Even if you cannot have the party, go ahead and set a fun table anyway and fulfill some of the things she wanted. Last year my daughter wanted a donut board for her graduation brunch. A friend of ours made her one.


Proms have been cancelled everywhere. I have seen pictures all over facebook of girls wearing their dresses around the house and their moms taking pictures of them. I did see one post of a family holding their own front porch prom. They have several teenagers in their family, so they all dressed up and took pictures against a homemade backdrop. They had snacks on the porch and put signs in their yard. Not perfect, I know.

One of the special aspects of prom (for the girls) is getting their hair and makeup done by either their friends or by professionals. This is not possible right now. I hope that that as soon as all of the restrictions are lifted, these girls can go get their hair and makeup done and have a special photo session in their beautiful dresses.

Bring a Sense of Humor


The senior class of 2020 will never forget their graduations, proms, parties, sports seasons, and other activities that did not happen. While they may not want to acknowledge it right now, they will tell their grandchildren about this. Their class reunions will be pandemic or prom themed. Anytime they meet someone later in life who was also a graduate of the class of 2020, they will swap stories.

So, go ahead and take some pictures with everyone wearing masks and holding bottles of hand sanitizer. Measure out 6 feet and take pictures “social distancing.” Record the history that they are a part of. I have created photo booth props that are available in the Almost Empty Nest store for just this purpose.

Enlist Help from Others

Enlist help from those who have been a huge part of  your child’s life – coaches, teachers, ministers, and others, to keep your senior encouraged.

I talked to Kelsey, a youth minister at the Park Church of Christ in Tulsa about their plans to encourage and honor the senior class of 2020.

She and the other youth ministers are reaching out to individuals in the senior class by

Writing notes, drive bys, FaceTimes.

We met with all of them on zoom the night we were supposed to leave for retreat. We prayed, asked hard questions, and loved on them. We challenged them to reach out to other hurting people and look out of their own box.

We are highlighting each senior on Instagram story for 3-4 days and anyone can write their favorite memories of their time with that senior in the youth group. That’s been so successful and our seniors are loving it.

Our next phase is to honor the seniors if their senior weekend gets postponed. We want to write letters to each of them from us listing out their qualities and how they’ve impacted the youth group. And also Asking their parents and their peers and underclass to send notes and then compile them in a packet.


Get Excited about the Future


Times are tough right now, but they won’t be like this forever. Parties will happen again. Travel will happen again. These kids will get to go to college at some point. So, let’s plan for those days.

Plan a College Send Off party late in the summer (prayers going up) instead of the originally planned graduation party.

Plan a trip for later in the summer or over the next Christmas break or spring break. 

Start shopping for the dorm. It can be a nice distraction from what is not happening now to think about what will happen later. You can use this list to help you.



It’s true. This stinks for this senior class. It is our job to help it stink less and celebrate all of their accomplishments and send them off to their new futures in style.

Please comment below with what you are doing to celebrate your senior.

Join the Community

Join the Almost Empty Nest Community and receive FREE ACCESS to the Almost Empty Nest Printables Library. The Printables Library includes every printable on Almost Empty Nest - A Year of Care Package Printables, Gift Tags, College Preparation Checklists, Additional Care Package Printables (Birthday, March Madness, the Super Bowl, additional Halloween and finals), Bible Verse printables and more.



If your prefer not to join, you may purchase the printables HERE.

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