What is your biggest worry now that you are sending your child to college? Will they go to class? Will they make friends who are a good influence? Will they eat ramen noodles for every meal? It’s scary to send your children off to college. We worry about whether our kids will be healthy, happy, and successful. Even though this is the time for your children to become independent, to ease your fears, we have some tips to have a healthy college student through the freshman year and beyond while giving you peace of mind.
Healthy college student habits to talk about
- Sleep. Sleep is so important to our health. It affects our relationships, our brains, and ourphysical bodies. Encourage your child to focus on getting enough sleep at least five nights a week. They are still teenagers, so enough sleep means 7 to 9 hours. We know there will be parties, events, and activities that everyone will want to be involved in, but if your child can get enough sleep at least 5 nights of the week, they will stay healthier and have better focus.
- Exercise. Exercise will help your student have energy throughout the day and sleep well at night. It will also help their brain health when they are hitting the books. Encourage them to exercise at least 10 minutes every day. You could even start a Fitbit family challenge that will have everyone in the family walking farther and taking the stairs.
- Safety. Help your child establish some rules for their personal safety and the safety of their friends. One possibility is to establish these three rules. Get familiar with the services offered on campus to help make your child safe, including campus police and transportation services. Encourage them to listen to their own intuition. Find out if their campus supports a safety application. If not, there are a lot of apps used that are easily installed.
- Finances. Help your child establish some rules for money, including what bank they will use and how to track their expenses.More universities are not offering advice and counseling to students to help them make wise money decisions. It is important to be aware that the credit card companies are just waiting to have young first time students apply for their credit cards. Colleges can either be a part of this process and receive kick-backs for all applicants or often, card companies go around without permission.
- Attendance. Encourage your child to attend all their classes. 70% of life is about showing up!If they choose an online class, they need to be engaged online from the start of the semester. Those that procrastinate realize that most online courses are often more difficult than face-to-face.
- Communication. Establish with your child a time to stay in touch and how you will connect. This can be weekly Skype chats, just a phone call, and could include regular texts. Also decide when you will visit your child. Dr. Jess P. Shaktin discusses many aspects of communication to consider before your child goes to college.
- Tribe. Remind your student to get out of their comfort zone and find their tribe. The first weeks of college can be overwhelming, but remind them to join clubs and activities, to talk to other students, and try new things.Arriving early or staying after class often provide students the opportunity to talk and begin connecting to form a study group.
- Good bedding. To promote good sleep, don’t go cheap on bedding. Buy quality material so your kid can get a good night’s rest. If your child is living in a dorm room where the mattress is provided, consider purchasing a mattress-topper and pillow with good neck support.
- Calendar/Time Management system. Help your child find a calendar and time management system that works for them. The calendar can be physical or digital, but they will benefit from one place to keep their assignments, tests, appointments, class schedule, and work schedule.
- Water Bottle. Buy a great reusable water bottle so that your student doesn’t always use plastic. Plastic disrupts many of the hormones in our bodies. Be Good to People makes an excellent thermal water bottle.
- Supplements. Consider getting some labs run on your student this summer, so you both know any nutritional deficiencies they might have. If everything tests well, send them with some key vitamins to keep them healthy. My favorites are a B vitamin, probiotics, vitamin D, Omega-3 and Omega-6. They can also benefit from protein shakes or meal replacement shakes or a green powder.
- Gratitude journal. Researchers report regularly on the value of gratitude. Choose a small notebook for your student to use as a gratitude journal. Encourage them to practice gratitude by writing down three things they are grateful for each night.
- Healthy food care package. Try sending a care package once a month with healthy, portable and storable snacks like RX bars, Kind bars, jerky, or nuts. You can also find healthy food places close to campus that deliver. Keep these in mind especially around finals when stress is high, so your student doesn’t turn to the unhealthy vending machine options and ramen noodles.
- An encouragement care package. Send encouraging words or notes often. These can be texts, but remember that we all love real mail too. Remind them that you are thinking about them with a postcard. You can also make encouraging care packages. I love Notes to Self socks, and my quote cards for encouragement.
Remind your child that often colleges offer courses, advice or handouts on good study skills. Encourage them to take advantage of this and all of the assistance they have to offer such as: resource center, labs, counseling, tutoring, and any other ways to help eliminate stress. Think of counselors and instructors as mentors who want you to succeed in college. Remember they chose their profession because they enjoy helping others, so don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice. The more connected you are at school, the more successful you will be both academically and when you graduate. These individuals are often the most powerful references on your resume.
Sending your child to college can cause a lot of nervousness for you and them. But with these plans in place, you can feel confident that you’ll have a healthy college student through the whole freshman year.