An Education On Education: Preparing For The College Experience
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By Mia Bolaris-Forget
You probably can remember when junior/juniorette got on his/her first school bus and now he/she is offer to achieve a higher education.
You’re excited, proud, and just as nervous and “scared” as his/her first day of kindergarten. Will he or she be able to keep up with the work, will your child like his/her new environment, classmates and professors? Will your child make friends, who will they be, and what about the potential of succumbing to peer pressure, and how will they manage and handle “adult” responsibilities….and how will this all affect their mental and physical health.
From physical exams to off-campus health options following are some helpful health hints for your college bound grad.
1. Pre-Collegiate Physical: Most colleges and universities mandate that students go through a pre-college physical before the beginning of the school year. This is primarily an way to confirm each students health status and potential risks related to his/her current health and family medical history, as well as a way of making sure all vaccines (measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), tetanus-diphtheria (TD) toxoid are up to date. The physician will also give your child a general physical to verify that he or she is healthy. The physical should include an external exam of the reproductive oranges for males and a pelvic exam for females. In the case that your child needs ongoing or periodic treatment for a medical condition, make the necessary arrangement both on and off campus before your child makes his/her official transition. Keep in mind that many schools may require additional exams for students wishing to participate in sports or who have chronic health issues.
2. Vaccines: Because university and college environments can be risky and students often somewhat careless, aloof and cavalier about (wise) choices, they may risk exposure to several infectious diseases. While immunization is not mandatory, it is highly recommended and a sensible safeguard.
· Meningococcal Disease: From living on campus in close quarters, to sharing study space, the life of university and college students automatically puts them in close contact with a vast variety of different people on a daily basis. This environment is a virtual breeding ground for meningococcal meningitis, a bacterial infection of the membrane and fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. While less than 100 college students yearly contract the disease, it is noted as being quite contagious and may cause localized epidemics.
Vaccinating you child for Meningococcal Meningitis provides some protection against some strains of the bacteria, but the immunity wears off within three to five years. Professional medical associations strongly suggest that college bound students are thoroughly informed of the disease and the risks associated with contracting it. They also recommend college-bound students have easy access to vaccinations.
· Hepatitis B: As a result of possible and potential sexual experimentation during and throughout their college years, or contact with those who are, college students may face an increased threat for hepatitis B. The virus is transmitted via the exchange. The disease can become chronic or result in severe liver damage and liver failure, but is readily preventable with a vaccine. Youngsters receiving first time immunizations for hepatitis B receive two or three shots (depending on the manufacturer) with intervals of a few to several weeks between shots. It’s estimated that approximately one in 20 people contract the disease at some point in their live, warranting universal immunization. Experts note that the highest threat remains for those who inject narcotics or have multiple sex partners; and they caution that health care workers and family members of infected persons may also be at risk for contracting the virus.
· Influenza: While the flue is one of the most “non-threatening” contagious viruses your college bound adolescent is exposed to, it can wreak havoc on his/her academics. This viral upper respiratory infection can cause everything from muscle aches; fever and chills to coughing, and incredible fatigue, and can often last for well over one week. Experts further alert that influenza can progress into pneumonia or infection of the lungs, which may be quite serious and life threatening. They note that the vaccine changes annually and strongly recommend a yearly vaccine each fall before the beginning of each new school year.
“Exchange” Students or those who plan to pursue an international or overseas education are advised to obtain vaccines for hepatitis A and undergo a tuberculosis test. All students should be tested and vaccinated for chickenpox (varicella) and rubella. Tetanus-diphtheria boosters are recommended every decade,
3. A Lesson In Lifestyle: The transition from high school to college is quite the eye-opening experience. From academic expectations to making their own mistakes and decisions while transitioning into an adult role and world, their new life can be quite confusing and difficult. It’s your job to give them the life skills to make sure their experience is a happy, healthy and rewarding one.
· Rest and Relaxation: An increased and intense work and study load may lead your child to compromise his/her sleep habits. Inadequate sleep may result in depression, anxiety, lack of concentration, memory deprivation, reduced resistance to illness and increased drug and alcohol use and abuse. Talk to your college bound child about the importance of maintaining healthy sleep habits. While all-nighters are accepted as par for the course, they may signal poor practices such as poor study habits and lax time management skills that may affect them after college as well. Extraneous noises can be limited by addressing concerns with the student housing authorities, or by implementing techniques that will block it out. Alarm clocks are also an essential part of campus and college life. It’s no doubt a time in your child’s life where he or she will learn the merits of being totally responsible for his or her own actions.
· Keeping Up Healthy Habits: Under new pressures and responsibilities your child may forgo all the good habits you instilled in him or her. They may neglect eating properly, if at all, exercising, staying up late, etc.
Teach your child in advance about the importance of sustaining a healthy lifestyle and offer advice and training on making quick, easy meals or meal choices. Maybe even help him/her stock up on some healthy essentials. Keep a close eye on your child’s weight, and don’t hesitate if you observe drastic changes combined with change in disposition and attitude that may be signaling deeper issues.
Experts also advise informing your child about the merits of safe transportation including NOT accepting rides from new friends or strangers, driving within the speed limit and NOT while under duress or when tired, wearing a seat belt in cars and helmets and other protective gear on motorcycles and bikes.
· Drugs and Alcohol: No matter what principles you’ve instilled in your child and how “good” he or she is there will come a time where curiosity may get the better of him or her. Remember, alcohol and drugs are quite prevalent and easily accessible among teens and certainly on college campuses where younger students can readily mix and mingle with older ones. Besides setting a good example for him or her to reflect on at home, make sure you discuss the perils of drugs and alcohol to your child before he or she heads off to campus, even if they are attending a local facility. You may even want to take him or her to a local hospital (trauma) ward where there are drug and alcohol related accident victims and/or to a rehab facility. Emphasize that use of drugs and alcohol may result in depression, anxiety, impaired memory, lack of concentration and many other dangerous and destructive patters and behaviors. Also encourage your child to confide in you and/or a school counselor about their own or a friend’s drug or alcohol related issues, and never hesitate of be ashamed to ask for help, guidance, or a referral.
Once your child has been exposed to campus life for a while, discuss the social scene and what impact it’s having on him or her. Emphasize the importance of being a leader, not a follower (regardless of YOUR potential past indiscretions), and stress the importance of NEVER drinking and driving. Don’t condemn your child for his or her curiosity, but instead let him or her know that if he or she drinks, he or she should NOT drive. Tell them to take a cab home, if they have to, even if you have to charge it on your credit card. And tell them that if they choose to drive, they should refrain from drinking (for the evening).
· Dating and Sex: Unless your child is in a serious relationship that has endured 4 years of high school (growing pains) chances are he or she will also be bombarded by a barrage of sexual temptations. Inform your child of the increased potential to act irresponsibly under the influence, and the potentially life threatening hazards of such irresponsible actions. From pregnancy (having an impact on their future and dreams) to deadly diseases (many which may not show up until many years later) make sure you are clear and candid about your child’s sexual habits and the decisions he or she makes based on them. Discuss safe sex options including, above all, the merits of abstinence, and make sure your child knows where to go for additional (confidential) information and services related to protection, tests and evaluations, and to talk about any other concerns he or she may have. Also encourage your child to talk to YOU about everything and try to also encourage long-term monogamous relationships and the merits of marriage, especially in relation to sex and their raging hormones and curiosity.
· In Case Of Emergency: From illness to tragedy, there should always be a way to communicate with your child and the school, and for him or her to receive instruction and assistance. Most campuses feature student health offices and clinics staffed with doctors and other medical professionals trained in helping students with minor illnesses or referring them to off-campus health care providers. Speak with the college admissions staff about on-campus health and wellness resources, as well as ways to stay involved or be contacted, especially if your child needs special attention for a learning disability or a medical condition.
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