All over the country, parents are helping pack up their kids and sharing tearful farewells as their little birds leave the nest for college. In the whirlwind of helping them buy bedsheets and dorm room essentials, many parents wonder what advice to give their kids before saying goodbye for their first semester. To help cover all your bases, check out what leading physicians tell their kids before sending them out into the world.
Dr. Denise Sur is a mother of four and vice chair in the department of family medicine at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. The last of her children is finishing college this year, and she told CBS News that having the "sex talk" is absolutely necessary and that it gets easier with each child:
“I got even more comfortable talking about it when I realized my older kids didn’t give me grief when I gave them advice, and they did call me when stuff came up. Whether the younger ones liked it or not, I was way more open about sex and condoms with them.”
Sur advises parents to talk about sex in a way that aligns with their own personal belief system, but is also adapted to their child's personality. When it comes to talking to her kids she says:
“My wish is that you will not be sexually active and that you’ll wait until you’re older, but if that changes while you’re at college, you can easily access birth controland protection.”
Dr. Sur also says that every college-age student needs to know that two forms of protection are needed when it comes to sex. For women, she recommends using "long-acting reversible contraceptives, such as IUDs or implants" to prevent pregnancy. For both men and women, she stresses the importance of using a condom to help prevent the spread of infections like herpes, HIV, HPV, gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Dr. Steven Lamm is a clinical professor and the medical director of the Tisch Center for Men’s Health at NYU Langone Medical Center. As a father of five, he stressed that "sexually active gay and bisexual young men should also know they’re at higherrisk for HIV. They should talk with their doctors before going to college about pre-exposure prophylaxis, called PrEP, which involves taking a pill every day to help reduce the risk of infection if exposed."
Dr. Lamm also said that "if alcoholism, addiction or depression run in your family, it’s really important that a child knows the family history before they move to a college campus. If there’s a genetic predisposition to alcoholism or depression, have a discussion about it because the risks are much higher for those kids."
Dr. Lamm told CBS News that he listened and watched his children carefully, especially during their freshman year. He said if they came home looking happy and not overly groggy for Thanksgiving break, then it was a good sign.
“It’s a transition period and you want to be aware of that,” he said. If they had an eating disorder or depression in the past, for example, college may make them more vulnerable to those issues again. Student health centers can provide support services if a child seems to need help."
"If you call to check in and they answer the phone groggy or don’t sound like themselves, if their grades are slipping, or they’re having personal problems, it’s time for a parent to visit. Even if it’s under the guise of, 'I just wanted to come up and take you to dinner.'"
Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Ellen Rome tells her children and her patients, “Don’t drink out of anyone else’s glass, so you don’t get strep or mono and so nobody gives you a date rape drug. It’s happening on campuses every semester.Acquaintance rape is very common. Date rape drugs are a real thing. It is common on college campuses and in bars. And it’sstill happening to nice kids at nice schools across the country.”
Dr. Felice Adler is a mother of two and a pediatric infectious disease expert at Children’s Hospital of Orange County and UC Irvine. When it comes to staying safe at night, she warns:
“Make sure you walk in pairs or groups. Even just this morning, I sent my daughter the emergency phone for the police at Berkeley and for the campus escort at night. And my son a lot of times when it was two in the morning, he’d call Uber. Even using car-sharing services. But if you’re a young woman, I wouldn’t recommend that.”
Dr. Adler also says it's important to talk to your college-age kids about exercise, nutrition and sleep habits, which are essential factors in fighting infection, feeling good physically and staying mentally healthy.
“All of a sudden they may not get meals cooked by parents and they may not be getting all the nutrition they got before. I tell them it’s important not to make potato chips your only meal of the day. A healthy diet will make you more resistant to getting sick. And it’s important that kidsexercise every day – even joining a club sport or going to the gym a few days a week. They need 45 to 60 minutes of exercise a day that gets their heart rate up,” said Adler.
“Sleep is super-important. It helps you resist getting infected with germs. People need7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. Certainly getting less can start causing issues. It might be more difficult to focus in class, affect your performance in school and make you more likely to get sick,” she added.
Most doctors told CBS news that being healthy in college isn't just about staying safe when it comes to sex and alcohol. They say that it's extremely important that parents with children who have allergies or chronic illnesses make sure their student health center is aware of their issues. Doctors say that college roommates should know about each other's health issues or who and when to call for help if there's an emergency.