Guest contributor: Sarah Daren
Sending your young adult off to college can be a painful and scary experience. You know how much you’ll miss them and worry about them, even though you know that they are off to learn and grow as people.
Most parents find it impossible to stop worrying about their children as they go off to college. That’s totally normal. But it’s also a good idea to prepare your undergrad for the realities of college life so they can be prepared. Here are some topics you should bring up before your kid goes off to college.
Talk About STDs on Campus
College equals freedom for many young adults. They’re meeting new people their age and forming new relationships. They’re likely to start dating and might be sexually active.
STDs are a real concern on campus and can have long-lasting consequences. Some STDs are even incurable. It’s important for your undergrad to know the risks and to take steps to prevent STDs.
These conversations are never easy, but they can make a big difference. Young adults often feel invincible, but they don’t realize that a disease like herpes or HIV can have an impact on the rest of their lives.
Talking about safe sex, including testing and condom use, can help ensure that your undergrad prioritizes their own health. Remember to mention peer pressure too—no one should be allowed to pressure them into having sex!
Stress Management & Mental Health Are Important
College can be extremely stressful for undergrads. They’re on their own for the first time, learning how to manage their schedules and take care of themselves. They’re also juggling classes and developing new friendships.
Unfortunately, that can lead to issues like anxiety, poor self-care, and more. Students might not be physically active or not get enough sleep because of their school and social calendar. Their personal wellness and mental health can suffer, affecting all areas of their lives.
Be sure to talk about stress management and mental health with your undergrad. Encourage them to create routines and healthy habits to help them stay on track. Mentioning wellness strategies like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing can also help.
You should also encourage them to seek out help from the school counselor if they’re struggling. Make sure they know they can reach out to you or other support systems if they are having trouble managing their stress levels.
Talk About Sleep and Healthy Eating
Mental health and physical health are closely linked. If students aren’t getting enough sleep or are only eating junk food, then they may struggle with stress and their school workload. Establishing healthy habits on campus can be difficult, but it’s essential for students’ success and well-being.
If your undergrad already struggles with getting enough sleep, talk to them about why it’s so important to get a full night’s rest every night. They won’t be able to study effectively or pay attention if they’re sleepy. Plus, chronic sleep deprivation is linked with a large number of health problems.
Healthy eating is another key component in academic performance and overall health. Dining hall options can be full of empty calories, causing students to fill up on junk food.
Educate your undergrad about which options are the best and consider teaching them how to prepare some healthy dishes, even if they’re living in a dorm. Also, teach them how to clean up after themselves!
Four years is a long time for an 18-year-old. Before your young adult goes off to college, it’s up to you to help them look into the future. College is safe and secure in a lot of ways, with much more predictability than the real world.
Talk to your child about what they want out of life. Ask them questions about what they want to get out of college. Although they don’t have to know exactly what they want to do when they leave college, it’s good to get them thinking about their future plans and career.
Moving away from home is a big step. It’s one of the first big steps young adults take, but it’s certainly not the last. Set your undergrad up for success by helping them consider the rest of their life—and how college fits into that vision.
Sarah Daren has been a consultant for startups in the wellness industry, wearable technology, and health education.
She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life with a focus on making America a healthier andsafer place for future generations to come.