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Sharp Health News

3 ways to help your child be college-ready

Aug. 22, 2016

3 ways to help your child be college-ready

"Enjoy this time — it goes by so quickly." It's a sentiment most parents of babies and toddlers hear, usually after a sleepless night or the world's greatest terrible twos tantrum. At times like this, all parents can think of is how much they'd like the time to fly. However, as cliché as such comments are, this mom is finding them to be painfully true.

I am the mother of three girls, ages 8, 14 and nearly 18. My eldest just graduated from high school and she can't wait to be an adult, vote, start college and — gulp — move to a different state to do so.

She has chosen her college, purchased new luggage and sent off the first tuition check. There are multitudes of other things we should be focusing on, though the only thing I can seem to think about is my little girl leaving.

Dr. Catherine Sundsmo, a family medicine specialist with Sharp Rees-Stealy, recently addressed some of the more practical topics parents in my position should focus on — between the crying jags, of course — when preparing to send their child to college.

Make time for "the talk"
There's no one right way to begin the pre-college "talk." It’s best to keep the conversations casual and natural, like talking about college expectations when in the car or when you’re doing something else. Ask your teen open-ended questions about expectations related to parties, sleep, relationships, school performance, emotional or mood changes, and learning to be independent.

While you want to give your student space when they head off to college, staying connected is important. Check in with your child often and ask open-ended questions about how they’re doing and feeling, which will allow you to intervene early if any concerns arise.

From first-aid to first illness away from home
College campuses typically have health and wellness centers. Make sure your child knows about these resources and where the building is located on campus in the event they need to use their services.

Purchase a first-aid kit with basic supplies for your child to take to college.

They should also keep a supply of these health essentials:

  • Cough drops and over-the-counter medications for minor coughs and colds
  • Antihistamines for any allergic reactions
  • Hydrocortisone cream for bug bites or mild itchy rashes
  • Pain relievers for headaches (aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.)
  • Antacids or anti-diarrhea medication for stomach upsets
  • A thermometer to check temperature when ill
  • Sunscreen, with at least SPF 30

In case of emergency
Children ages 18 or older should sign a HIPAA authorization form, which is akin to signing a permission slip that allows health care providers to disclose health information to anyone listed on the form. It does not have to be all encompassing and can specify to not disclose information about sexual activity , drugs, mental health or other details that your student may want to keep private.

Also, you may want to consider signing a durable power of attorney or medical power of attorney form and living will prior to your student leaving for college in the event they become incapacitated and cannot make their own medical decisions. These forms can all be downloaded for free on various websites and copies should go with your child, be given to their health care provider and kept with you.

Sure, preparing your child to leave for college is challenging, scary and sad; but it is also exciting. It is incredibly rewarding to watch my daughter move on to this next chapter and realize that we have done our best to prepare her to succeed in the world as an independent adult — even if we do still see her as a little girl in pigtails.

Jen Spengler is a marketing specialist with Sharp HealthCare and the mother of three girls.

For the media: To talk with a Sharp doctor about health needs for new college students, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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