Teens Off to College: What Parents Should Know

You’ve raised them since birth. You’ve walked with them every step of the way. And now they’re about to leave for college. This can be an exciting — and scary — time for Mom and Dad. But knowing the right ways to help your kid start school smart can make the transition easier for everyone. Here are some important topics to address before saying goodbye:

• Safety: Talk about going out with a buddy they know and trust. Everything you taught your child through the years — like don’t walk alone at night or get into a car driven by somebody you don’t know or somebody who’s been drinking — continue to apply. Add to those rules not accepting drinks (even soda) from someone they don’t know. Date rape drugs, sometimes used on college campuses, can be slipped into drinks, rendering a person helpless.

• Drinking: Alcohol poisoning is a common problem on college campuses. And kids can die from this. Talk with yours about how you feel about them drinking. Be sure to discuss the problems of binge drinking, one of the deadliest mistakes college students make with their newfound freedom.

• Illegal drugs: Remind them that this is against the law and dangerous. Most likely, your kids will encounter drugs during their college years. Discuss strategies for getting out of uncomfortable drug-related situations.

• Homesickness: When is feeling homesick OK and when is it a problem? The more they’re prepared for this, the better they’ll be able to handle the kind of emotions that range from normal homesickness to more serious and disruptive depression or anxiety.

• Nutrition: Many kids gain weight — often referred to as “The Freshman 15” — that first year of college. Encourage regular exercise and a healthy diet. Most colleges have wonderful recreation centers or offer outlets for playing intramural sports. And, while pizza is the staple on every campus, encourage your teen to also seek well-rounded dining options.

OK, so what about you? How do you deal with the sadness of seeing your child off to college? This can be a hard and wonderful time. You may go through a period of adjustment and may deal with some additional stress from the expenses of paying for college. Keep open communication with your spouse as well as your teen. And enjoy this exciting time for you all!

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