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 our physical 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.
- Finances. Help your child establish some rules for money, including what bank they will use and how to track their expenses.
- Attendance. Encourage your child to attend all their classes. 70% of life is about showing up!
- 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. Make a plan for how you will communicate and how you will respond to various common situations.
- 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.
- Good bedding. To promote good sleep, don’t go cheap on bedding. Buy quality material so your child 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 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.
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.
This article first appeared on Dr. Michelle Robin.