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Helping Your Child Stay Well in University or College

September 12, 2017 by HealthyFamilies BC

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Parenting young adults going to university and college

For many parents, seeing your child go off to post-secondary can be bitter sweet. It’s exciting! They’re entering a new phase of life and exploring their independence. On the other, hand your baby is leaving home for the first time; you’re hoping they’ll make the right decisions and have a meaningful taste of adulthood.

You may be wondering…what challenges will your child face? How you can support them through these trials?

Support Healthy Behaviour When it comes to Alcohol

Young adults may have their first experiences with alcohol in college or university. Show them how to have a healthy relationship with alcohol and equip them to be responsible decision-makers. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Lead by example: act responsibly around alcohol, drink in moderation, and take responsibility for your actions. Read this guide on what moderation means. 
  2. Maintain lines of communication: act as a “sounding board” for them as they build their personality and make their own choices. It is important to listen and have mature conversations about the challenges they will encounter on their own – read this example.
  3. Foster an honest dialogue: Acknowledge that drinking is part of society and socializing so your young-adult will be more receptive to your observations about their alcohol-related choices and behaviours. Encourage their expanding social network and new experiences, while supporting them when they make poor choices. The key is to avoid criticizing them. This could damage the open communication that you have worked to create. Read this blog to learn more.

Support Students with Eating Healthy

Anyone who has gone through post-secondary before will remember those long nights in the library where the only food available is pizza or noodles from the campus cafeteria. When you have three papers to finish in two days, it’s hard to maintain a healthy eating pattern. With this in mind, you can help your young-adult make healthy choices:

  1. Speak with your son or daughter about what foods they have available to them, and collaborate to create a meal plan with healthier options.
  2. Teach your child how to shop for groceries on their own. Healthy grocery shopping is an acquired skill, and one that every newly-independent adult should work at learning as they enter their 20’s.
  3. Remind them how important moderation is. Unhealthy foods will be all around them in post-secondary, and that’s ok. They should feel free to enjoy these foods every now and then, but not all the time.

Help Young Adults Build Resiliency

Demands on post-secondary students can be a lot to handle: writing essays and midterms, working with course teams, balancing a social life, and some students even have part-time jobs on the side! The key to coping is resiliency.

What is resiliency? It’s having the ability to cope with challenges, deal with negative feelings and to “bounce back” after negative experiences. It’s also the ability to adapt with changing circumstances and keep thriving – all of which will be critical to a person’s well-being in post-secondary and the rest of their lives. How you can support them:

  1. Social skills are important for fostering resilience in young adults. If your young adult has good relationships and is involved with extra-curricular activities, they will have a higher chance of developing meaningful connections and a sense of belonging. This article gives advice on improving social skills
  2. Part of resiliency is being realistic, thinking clearly, and finding the positives (even in difficult situations). Work through anxieties your child might have about starting post-secondary together. Ask, “what are you worried will happen? How bad is this really in the grand scheme of life?” Grounding questions will help keep things in perspective. Having a sense of humour can also benefit the situation. Learn more here.
  3. Personal values like self-esteem, empathy, respect for others, kindness, fairness, and honesty are all traits that contribute to a person’s overall resilience. If your young adult is able to demonstrate these values and treat others well, they are more likely to receive a positive response and build strong relationships in return. Read these tips to help them build self-steem.

Encourage Physical Activity during Their Studies

It can also be hard for a new post-secondary student to keep being active since they are busier and may be living away from home where they don’t have daily encouragement from parents or teachers to join a team or gym class. But it’s worth it to fit physical activity in – every student benefits from getting the recommended amount of weekly physical activity. It helps relieve stress, maintain a healthy weight, and also impacts  achievement in the classroom. 

Being physically active can:

  • Increase focus
  • Improve brain performance by increasing blood and oxygen flow
  • Heighted mood and overall well-being

Share this article with your young-adult for ways to make physical activity part of life on campus.

Your child is about to go through a life changing experience. Few things are more exciting than watching your child discover what kind of adult they want to be while in post-secondary and beyond! Use the ideas here to encourage your child and support them to stay healthy as they embark on this new phase of life.

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