Sep 27, 2017

Helping Hands for Health: Support Your Child at College

Sending your child off to college is a bittersweet experience. You're proud to see them growing up, but it's hard to see them start to leave home. You also can't help but worry about them, especially if they're going to college far away. You want to make sure that they're healthy and happy while they're at college, so it's worth your time to talk to them about their health. You can also help them get organized before they leave, so they're better prepared to stay healthy. If you've had an open and honest talk with your child, you can feel more confident that they're going to make sensible decisions.

Check Off Health Necessities Before College

Before your child leaves for college, there are a few health check-ups and precautions you might want to take. It's a good idea for them to have a health assessment before they go, partly because they won't be using their usual doctor while they're away from home. It's also important to remember that some colleges require their students to file paperwork on their health, sometimes including having a physical examination or providing health and vaccination history. A number of vaccinations are a good idea before going to college, including immunizations against meningitis, HPV, and flu.


Photo source: The Blue Diamond Gallery



Help with Health Insurance

Health insurance can be pretty complicated, especially when you're an 18 year old about to go to college. It's a good idea for both you and your child to check their college's requirements and your health insurance policy to see what's what. Many parents will find that, for now at least, their child can stay on their insurance policy until they are 26. However, it's important to keep an eye on any possible changes in the future, just in case this is one day no longer the case. If your child is going out of state, make sure they're still going to be covered by your policy.

Knowing Available College Health Resources

Your child might need to access the health facilities and resources available at their college while they're away. So you might want to sit down with them and look at what's available if they ever need any help. The student health center could offer a range of services, and it all depends on the college. Remember to also check which mental health services are available, as it's just as important for them to look after their mental health as it is for them to care for their physical health.

Diet and Exercise

There's a reason people talk about the "freshman 15". When students arrive at college, they often have to feed themselves 24/7 for the first time. They're also busy partying and getting stuck into their classes, so they might not pay the most attention to what they eat. Most of them learn eventually, however, that they need to manage a balanced diet and exercise too. You can help your child get off to a good start by making sure they have some cheap and healthy recipes  in their cooking arsenal. Encourage them to keep fit too, especially as they can enjoy the social aspects of sports and fitness.


Photo source: Pixabay


Sexual Health

Talking about anything that involves sex with your child is always awkward for both of you. Although you might hope they have learned all they need to know at school or through their own research, you can't guarantee this. You won't be able to stop your child having sex if they want to, but you can encourage them to do it safely. Discussing contraception and perhaps helping your daughter choose a birth control option if she needs it might be a bit uncomfortable, but it's important. Condoms are essential for protecting against STDs, and you might also want to discuss regular STD testing. You can suggest some great testing options near their college campus. Talk to them about when to get tested and how important it is.

Have the Drugs and Alcohol Talk

There's no denying that your kids are likely to come across both drugs and alcohol at school. Most undergraduates might be underage, but drinking at college is still very common. It's not unusual for students to experiment with drugs, either. As with having sex, the best thing you can do is help them to make smart decisions. You can supply them with the facts, but it's ultimately up to them whether being safe means never touching drugs and alcohol or only doing it when they have friends they can trust with them. It's also wise to discuss the consequences of excessive consumption and where they could go if they need help.

Managing Stress and Mental Health

Staying healthy at college isn't just about physical health. Mental health is important too, especially for anyone who's away from home for the first time or stressed because of a busy schedule. The late teens and early twenties are also a time when several mental health conditions can manifest, so it's important that students have support if they need it. In addition to checking that the student health center has mental health support, you can suggest some coping methods your child can use to manage stress or help them find resources to use, such as counseling phone lines.

Be a Safe and Trustworthy Confidant

If you want your child to be able to look after their health while they're at college, be someone they feel that they can talk to. If they can trust you with what's happening in their life, both good and bad, they will be more likely to let you know if something might be wrong. They might be a young adult trying to be more independent, but sometimes they still need to speak to their parents for reassurance and support, or just to confess about a bad decision. Even though you might sometimes want to react by reproaching them, sometimes it's important to treat them like an adult and just listen, or offer solutions.

Help your child look after their health at college by getting them prepared. They might technically be an adult, but they still need a little help becoming independent.