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May 2, 2017

Three weeks from today, life as we have known it for 18 years in the Mr. Media household will forever change: Rachel is going to college to start her freshman year. I joke about being ready to see my daughter head off and mostly that’s true. And I know she is more than ready to begin a big new challenge and get out from under Mom and Dad’s thumbs. But there is, admittedly, a bit of sadness.

HARLAN COHEN podcast excerpt: "Rule number one: Your roommate does not have to be your friend. When your roommate has to be your friend, you're placing unrealistic expectations. A roommate is not a friend. A roommate is someone you share space with to help pay for college. My next roommate rule is: Roommates who want to get along will find a way to get along. The moment your son or daughter calls you and says, 'I hate my roommate!' is the moment your son or daughter becomes the Roommate From Hell. My third rule is the 'Uncomfortable Rule.' It says if your son or daughter is ever uncomfortable, he or she has to tell the roommate within 24 to 48 hours. And the roommate has to tell them. If you don't tell each other, then you're not allowed to talk about it. The problem with millions of college-bound high school students is they suck at uncomfortable. They don't know how to be uncomfortable. Roommates will tweet and instant message each other across the room because they can't have a face-to-face conversation."

When Mimi and I return home without the kid, who will provide me with on-site tech support? Who will correct my mistakes from sun up ‘til sun down? Who will need me to remove the occasional spider from terrorizing her?

And who will come up behind me at my desk and demand an occasional hug for no particular reason? To help my wife and I – and you and yours – survive the upcoming earthquake in our lives, I’ve invited Harlan Cohen to be my guest today. Cohen, the nationally syndicated “Help Me Harlan” advice columnist, is the author of The Naked Roommate: For Parents Only, a book recommended by many colleges and universities during parent orientation to help us get through the potentially trying months ahead. Some of the questions Cohen tackles include:

• My daughter has been on campus for a few months and never seems to have a care in the world. Is this normal?

• When is it appropriate to say something and intervene based on something a parent has seen or read on Facebook?

• What are some of the things I should advise my child to bring to college?

HARLAN COHEN podcast excerpt: "The following story happened at a Catholic university, of all places. A girl was in her room, in the lower bunk, and her roommate brought a boy home. She had never been in a room where someone had brought a boy home. She was already in her bed and didn't know what to do. The girl waited a while, hoping her silence would cause them to stop. But her being quiet only caused the situation to increase in intensity. So the girl reached out and picked up her cell phone and called her mom. 'Mom, what should I do?' The mom said, 'I'll be right there.' Three and a half hours later, the mom knocks on the RA's door, says, 'My daughter is in this room, we need to get her out of there!' They rescued the daughter and put her in a single occupancy room. That was their solution. I thought that was horrible! For the rest of her life, whenever she gets uncomfortable, they're going to isolate her? That's an example of a parent who can't handle uncomfortable."

By the way, I’ll pit my freshman roommate stories against anyone’s: the fall of the Shah of Iran, death threats under the door in the middle of the night, and someone who hated noise, light and fun of any kind. And when he relocated after one semester, my replacement roommate – also Iranian – was the antithesis of the first, outgoing, boisterous, funny, charming, and a big fan of hardcore porn. The lesson for me: never judge an entire race or nationality based on a single representative, kids!

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