The start of your child's first year at college is an exciting time, but it's also an extremely busy one. With so much to do -- picking up textbooks, buying new clothes, packing for the dorm, preparing for move-in day -- it can be tough to find time for the important conversations that will help your son or daughter succeed during this period of transition.
College health is one of the most essential topics to address as your child heads into their undergrad years, because maintaining healthy habits can be a huge factor in college success. Here are some tips to help you broach the subject and guide the conversation.
How to Get Started
It can be hard to bring up conversations about health and hygiene, especially if it's not something you and your child usually talk about, but you can use some simple conversation-starting techniques to engage your soon-to-be freshman:
- Be proactive. Ask your child if they have a moment to talk, and be transparent about what you want to discuss. If they're busy or uninterested in conversation, don't pressure them. Be patient, and try again later.
- Find a related avenue. Sometimes it takes a familiar gateway to get started -- maybe a favorite TV show or a song your teen likes. Use one of these opportunities to strike up a conversation with the intent to lead to health topics.
- Find a bonding moment. Long car rides and shopping trips for dorm furniture can be good times to bring up college health. Make sure you have your child's attention and that they're receptive to a casual, open conversation.
Make a Hygiene Care Package
Your college kid is going to need a lot of items to help keep themselves clean and healthy. There are tons of useful dorm room checklists out there to help give you an idea of what to include.
It's also important for college health that your child knows how to do their own laundry, and when it's time to change the bedsheets or replace their towels with fresh ones. Without parents to monitor them, it's not uncommon for college students to forget these basic rules of hygiene.
Medication and How to Use It
A first aid kit is an important college health tool. It should include the essentials, such as bandages, painkillers, and any prescriptions your child might have. Have a conversation about how to properly use the kit's contents, including checking expiration dates, what medicines are unsafe to mix, and how medications interact with alcohol.
Mental Wellness, Safe Sex, and Alcohol
Aside from general health and hygiene, the biggest worry most parents have is that their child will be exposed to drugs, alcohol, and sexually transmitted infections while at college. With 41 and 36 percent of college students experiencing anxiety and depression, respectively, according to the American Psychological Association, mental health is another important concern.
These subjects can be the hardest to talk about, and you should handle them with care. If you haven't spoken with your student about these issues before, address them with an open approach. Let your child know that it's safe to talk about these subjects, that questions are allowed and encouraged, and that there's outside help if they're not comfortable talking to you. Point them toward their health care provider, and make sure they are aware of any resources their college might have for them.
Ultimately, the best college health tool you can send your child to school with is the knowledge that you support them no matter what.