It is easy to mark the time of year with the influx of ads for back to school supplies. While jarring for many of us, as we desire to savor the lazy hazy days of August, the reality is that college drops off begin very shortly.

I remember with vivid clarity when my parents dropped me off at my freshman dormitory at Penn State, watching them finally drive away. The “emotional muscle memory” returns viscerally as I remember the rush of excitement, anticipation, and uncertainty all swirled together. I know my parents experienced their own parental emotional reactions of pride, mixed with anxiety.

The ritual of college freshman launching is different today, but still holds very similar feelings of excitement for the horizon of new experiences and relationships, mixed with gut felt concerns for safety and risk.

Teens today have grown up in a vastly different world with its 24 x 7 time clock, unbridled access electronically, and a sense of pressure that comes with the relentless threshold of exposure. Research is giving us a window of understanding of the emotional consequences of increased reports of anxiety and depression among teens, increase in substance use including vaping, and a rise in adolescent suicide rates.

As adults who care, our job is to breathe deeply and thoughtfully approach drop off. It is not just shopping for XL twin sheets that should be on the “to do” list, but also, remembering how critical it is to reinforce lessons we want to impart to our teens. We know that parental messaging is powerful and has positive impact. We know that connection matters and creates bonds. While physical distance is real and creates challenges for developing new patterns of connection, it is still possible to be a presence in your teen’s life. Our teens want us to show interest in who they are and what they are doing. You have been there to drop them at school and tuck them in. They are embarking on a new chapter, as are you. They will be meeting new people, feeling new levels of independence, being challenged differently.

Buy them school hoodies but don’t forget to discuss and establish ways to check in, talk, connect, and continue showing them love and concern.