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  • Rebecca P. Cohen

Intentional (Outdoor Family) Living

My older son, who was seven when I wrote Fifteen Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids, just left for college. There are so many reflections that have emerged with this life transition, and one in particular is the evidence that the gift of time outside with your kids every day stays with them as they make choices on their own. And, we all have the power to be intentional about how we live our lives based on what is fulfilling to us and the influences we want to pass on to our children.

“I think I’m going to try to do as much as I can outside,” he said after a hike with his suitemates this past Labor Day weekend. The next week, we Facetimed him one afternoon and he was mountain biking with a friend.

Before we dropped him off at college, there was a feeling that he was ready. We didn’t know how it would feel for him not to be in the house every day, but throughout his life we had been intentional about independent experiences away from home. Those experiences helped prepare him to be away from us.

Over four summers, my younger son’s experiences at wilderness camps helped prepare me (a bit). At the age of 11, he heard a presentation about a four to eight week camp canoeing the boundary waters between Canada and the U.S. He begged us to go. No communication with family except letter writing, so any news was two weeks delayed and the first letters relayed that he hated it. I couldn’t sleep and every day I worried about him. It was terrible. To everyone’s dismay, including the camp director’s, he decided to go back. Every summer, I’ve had a hard lesson in letting go.

With my older son’s departure for college, I’m still learning to let go, and reminding myself that I do have the power to decide how I want this transition to be for me, acknowledging the light and the dark of it all. The first couple of weeks without my older son at school were the hardest, just getting used to the physical absence and shift in energy in the house. When we dropped him off I was really excited for him. He said it was a weird feeling, like we were dropping him off at camp. I spent the next day under the covers, emotionally exhausted, then a couple of mornings journaling and crying (in a good way, just processing the transition). I realize that my older son’s launch is also a signal to me of the passing of time and getting older, which I haven't really felt in this way before. I just had an online meetup of parents of college students, and there was great sharing and support.

How do you want to be intentional for you and your family? If you are interested in setting intentions for your family, tomorrow, Friday September 18th from 1pm-2pm ET, I am hosting a workshop through my latest social impact venture,, with the life coach I’ve worked with for the last 10 years. Register here to receive the Zoom link:

Rebecca P. Cohen is author of the parenting book Fifteen Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids and children's book, PJ's Backyard Adventures. Rebecca is also Founder of, the curated peer hub and community of mutual support that connects caring people by email and phone during challenging life circumstances and transitions. Rebecca has been featured recently on the People Helping People Podcast and as a Mom Boss in the Washington, DC area. Rebecca has worked with over 6,000 children around the world in making outdoor connections for a healthier life. Her work has appeared in USA Today, Better Home and Gardens, Parenting, Redbook, Working Mother, Family Circle, and Backyard Solutions.