NYACK, N.Y. -- As summer comes to a close and students head back to college, knowing how to take care of themselves on their own is an incredibly important skill for young adults to have. Often away from parents for the first time in their lives, college students can quickly develop unhealthy habits if not properly prepared.
"If you’re a parent who is about to send your son or daughter off to college, take time off from packing to talk with them about staying healthy," said Dr. Deborah Nunziato-Ghobashy, a primary care physician with Highland Medical PC Family Practice Associates of Rockland in Valley Cottage. "There’s a lot of ground to cover -- they will be facing many challenges, including unhealthy food, not enough sleep, stress and the availability of alcohol and drugs."
Below is her advice to help make the transition to college a healthy one:
- Before they leave home, make sure your child checks with the doctor to see if you need any vaccinations, such as those for meningitis, human papillomavirus (HPV), whooping cough, influenza or tetanus.
- Encourage your child to visit the student health center if they aren’t feeling well for any reason.
- Explain the importance of planning time well and avoiding all-nighters.
- Students should get at least two and a half hours of physical activity a week, either at a fitness center, track or through a sports club on campus.
- They should also avoid overeating. Many students have access to all-you-can-eat buffets in college cafeterias and have vending machines in most dorms, so it's important for them to exercise, eat in moderation and include fruits and vegetables for a good, natural source of energy.
- Emotional health is equally as important as physical wellbeing. Students should develop a support network by joining clubs and teams to find people with common interests. If they are feeling overwhelmed with work, they should talk to professors, family members, friends or a clinical professional for advice and support.
- Many students see alcohol as an integral part of their college experience. However, drinking -- especially binge drinking -- can pose serious health and safety risks. If your child is concerned about their or someone else’s drinking or drug use, have them ask for help from staff at the student health center, resident advisors or parents.
"College is a big time of change for students," said Nunziato-Ghobashy. "By encouraging them to take the time to take care of themselves both mentally and physically, you will help them make a successful transition into their new life."
For more information on how to prepare your child for college, click here.