By: Marjorie Seidenfeld, MD (EmpowerUny)
As your child prepares to embark on their college experience, you may be thinking about how best to prepare them. What classes will they be required to take? Do they really need those XL Twin bedsheets? String lights or LED decor? In truth, there may be a lot more to it than that.
As complicated as it may feel to be accepted to college, it is often more challenging for students to remain there. Having served as the Medical Director of the student health service at Barnard College for 17 years, even I was surprised to learn that according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, as many as a third of college students do not graduate from college within 6 years.
What can we do, then, to fortify our children to try to prevent this pattern?
We foster independence NOW before they leave home. This empowers our children and gives them agency over their lives, reducing some of their anxiety. We also teach them how to find medical and mental health providers and ensure that they have support in place before they arrive on campus.
Ways of building independence:
· Encourage your child to do their own laundry now: read the labels, sort it, and allot time to do it each week. This way, it becomes a habit, part of their routine.
· Have your child shop for and cook a balanced meal for the family.
· Ensure that your child has a bank account, knows how to write a check, transfer money electronically, access their balance, and can budget for themselves. Discuss financial priorities.
· Have your child navigate around a new city, arrange travel plans, and/or drive a long distance on their own.
· Allow your child to negotiate their own educational challenges and limit your use of the parent portal to only required/necessary interactions. Your child will be turning 18 while in college (maybe even sooner), and you will not have legal access to their records while there, under FERPA laws.
· When they have small failures, allow your child the space to work out solutions on their own. Ask questions, and offer support, but don’t solve for them. They can do it!
Ways to put support into place (especially if your child has a known medical or mental health issue):
· Ensure that your child knows their medical history, medications, treatments, allergies, and family medical history. They can maintain a section in ‘Notes’ on their phone with this information.
· Have them renew their prescriptions and schedule their own medical/mental health/dental appointments.
· Teach your child about medical insurance – what is a deductible, a copay, an EOB? – and ensure that they have a copy of their insurance card. Determine if they might benefit from the college health insurance plan or whether they will use your insurance – and explain to them why. (Remember to opt out of the college plan if you are choosing to do so.)
· Most importantly, if they will need specialized care while away at school, teach them how to find a provider near their chosen school and do this with them (not for them!) before they arrive on campus. Especially if you are searching for a mental health provider, this can take weeks to months, so starting this as early as possible is wise. The student health service and the on-campus counseling service are often great starting points, as they usually maintain lists of providers they have vetted.
While it often feels comforting – and faster! – Doing these tasks for your child is not in their best interest. They are capable, and they need to know that they are capable, and they need to know that you have confidence in their capability. You will love seeing how satisfied and empowered they become!
If you need additional support in letting go – which can be challenging! – or that your child may benefit from guidance in these independence tasks, please check out Dr. Seidenfeld’s website at www.empoweruny.com.
Allied Physicians Group is a partnership of more than 150 dedicated, caring physicians and 350 highly trained support staff. Allied serves over 180,000 patients with offices throughout Greater New York City, Long Island, the Hudson Valley, and beyond. Founded in 2006, Allied Physicians Group is a recognized leader in increasing healthcare efficiencies and patient satisfaction, emphasizing support, innovation, and collaboration. If you are looking for a Pediatrician near you click here or for more information please visit https://alliedphysiciansgroup.com/.