Parents play a vital role in supporting their student’s health. Although you cannot protect your student from every illness or injury, you can offer ideas that promote wellness and reduce the stress of the transition to college.
- Encourage healthy and balanced eating
- Promote adequate amounts of sleep and ask about sleeping patterns
- Talk about your student’s schedule and what they can do to support their own success as a student
- Ask what they plan to do to take care of themselves (such as balance social and personal time, exercise, engaging in favorite pastimes, time management)
- Keep them updated on events taking place at home and with extended family; keep them connected to their home support network
- Remind them of your family’s beliefs and values around alcohol, drugs, sex, and Internet use
- Be available to hear their experiences without judging
Within the past 12 months, 87.3% of students reported feeling “overwhelmed” with all that they had to do, 62.3% reported feeling “very lonely”, and 61.9% had felt “overwhelming anxiety”
American College Health Association, 2016
When students leave home, they become responsible for their daily health practices. In a new setting, when they are meeting new friends and must monitor their own schedule, it is common for them to neglect some of the basic practices for staying healthy.
Sleep: Research has shown that the most important factor in staying healthy–and in succeeding in college–is getting enough sleep. Students who sleep eight hours a night are the most likely to get good grades and avoid illnesses.
Nutrition: Students should eat a variety of fresh and healthy foods, avoiding too many foods high in calories, saturated fats, or sugars.
Exercise: Getting at least 2-½ hours of exercise a week will keep students fit and will help reduce stress and anxiety. Exercise classes or team sports will also help them meet new friends.
Avoid substance abuse: Students cannot legally drink in the U.S. if they are younger than 21 years old. Even for those who can legally drink, it is important to avoid excessive drinking. The recommended limit for men is no more than two glasses of alcohol at one time and for women, just a single glass of alcohol. Short-term smoking can reduce a person’s ability to prevent illness; Long-term smoking can affect nearly every organ in the body. Drug use is another area of concern. Students should not take any drugs that are not prescribed and monitored by a physician, and they should never use drugs that were prescribed to someone else.
Sexual relations: Students can take steps to prevent unwanted sexual relations by being alert and aware of their surroundings and by making a plan to be safe. When going to a party, they should go with people they trust, and they should have a plan for getting home safely. That may mean having cash to pay for a ride home or someone to call if they need help. If they are having sexual relations, they should protect themselves and their partners from an unwanted pregnancy and from sexually transmitted infections. Most campus health centers can help students learn their options for protecting themself and their partner.