Straight Talk Advice

Aug 24, 2011

Real-life advice to take to college

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: My daughter starts college next week and I’m wondering what real-life advice the panel and you have for her. I am concerned about hookups, binge-drinking and depression, three things I hear are widespread in colleges. She is worried about gaining weight. What is everyone’s best advice? — MaryAnn, Monterey, Calif.

Geoff 25, Redding, Calif. Ask me a question

Even if your daughter doesn’t binge drink, odds are she’ll be around it. Make sure she knows what to do with people passed out, vomiting, etc. The more you know what to do in dangerous situations, the more apt you are to avoid one yourself. See this link for tips on helping a drunk friend:

Hookups: If you do hookup, don’t assume the guy will have condoms. Many won’t.

Depression: It’s really common. I went through it myself. Find support among your friends. Some of mine admitted feeling the same way so we scheduled health center appointments together. After the first appointment, we started gym routines which really helped.

Gregg 20, Los Angeles Ask me a question

Best thing for me was keeping a low profile on my night life. Nothing much good happens after 10PM. College is a time to create good habits and set goals. Not gaining weight is a good goal. Write it down and go toward it. Enjoy college! It only happens once.

Nicole 21, Grass Valley, Calif. Ask me a question

People learn best from experience, so don’t look at all this as totally negative. These are all situations you daughter must learn to manage.

Brie 20, Santa Barbara, Calif. Ask me a question

I started college nervous, not knowing my roommates or anyone. Now I can’t wait for school to start! I work two jobs and am a full-time student, so I skip worrying about small stuff. I do carve out time to party with my friends and roommates. It’s part of college. Have confidence in your daughter. There were days when I overdid things, but you learn your limits quickly. So far, I’ve not gained weight. I credit the healthy eating habits from my upbringing and also my active jobs.

Christina 19, Marysville, Calif. Ask me a question

A lot depends on the college. After always attending small schools, I chose a community college so I wouldn’t be in culture shock and make bad decisions.

Sarah 19, Redding, Calif. Ask me a question

Your college experience is decided by you and you alone. You can party every night and make poor relationship and health decisions, or you can start good habits that will benefit you throughout life. The biggest influence on my decisions was my friends. Choose them wisely and half the battle is won!

DEAR MARYANN: I would like to add to this solid advice by begging students to utilize their college student health centers! They’ve got all the college problems dialed in: loneliness, home-sickness, heartbreak, anxiety, eating disorders, sexuality questions, pharmaceutical abuse, alcohol abuse and more. Two keys to success are emotional intelligence and self-honesty. Students: ask yourself honestly on a regular basis: “Am I “stuffing” my stress with alcohol, drugs, food, or empty hookups? If the answer is yes, find healthy ways to de-stress — or get help. It can become a vicious cycle. The anxiety of feeling lonely or goal-less, can lead to drinking, which can lead to a pointless hookup, which can lead to drowning that emptiness with more drugs or alcohol.

It can look like “everyone” is partying and hooking up, but there are multitudes of hip young people who are not. Many college students aren’t even sexually active yet. (It’s fact.) To keep stress levels down: exercise, get your sleep, eat balanced meals (avoid sugar, caffeine and those tasty, fattening carbs served everywhere), cultivate caring friends, set goals, and follow your conscience. It rarely steers you wrong.

Editor’s Note: I recommend that parents of college students keep the doorways of conversation open by adopting a non-judgmental loving attitude that says “I’m curious! What is your world like?” Learn, especially, how to talk frankly about sexuality and pornography so you can inquire about this part of the college scene, too. It’s embarrassing, so unless you’re actively “curious” about it, you won’t hear a whisper about it. Pornography is mainstream in the college scene and has caused a shift in sexual expression. Having grown up immersed in this new sexual context (whether they watch it or not), many young people feel adrift and empty when it comes to love and sex and don’t even know why. Your perspective can help since you grew up in a different time and can offer options and alternatives to what many think (through no fault of their own), is the status quo. But do it tactfully. ‘Be curious, not furious’ so your adult child keeps talking to you — rather than feeling judged and deciding to avoid intimate conversation.

Use Skype as often as possible to talk to each other via free video on your computers. You can tell a lot about how someone’s doing when you can look in their eyes. Above all, trust your parental intuition. Some kids do fine, others struggle and then get their bearings, and the struggle is good for them, others really do need help. College age is when most suicides occur. Frequent Skyping and a caring attitude do wonders to stayed tuned in. —Lauren

  1. By BobTKG, age , from UK, originally South London. on 02/04/2014

    I would suggest, if you are finically able, that you offer to take her shopping when she first goes to university.

    Part of the experience of University is learning to live apart, and still feel that you can come home.

    The use of webcam and Skype was fantastic for keeping in contact with back home, from 250 miles away.

    Again another big part of university living, is learning to live alone on a budget while balancing all elements of work and social life. I personally found this easier when living in close proximity to others so i voluntarily spent all 3 years in various halls, and my flatmates varied hugely from year to year. Again, the need to commute to a separate facility formed bonds through car pooling.

    A good way to do this (that my parents did) was [on the aforementioned shopping trip] you allow them to plan a week’s worth of shopping. you make sure that she’s got good and healthy food that will last out at least the first week. this will also give you an indication of how much a food budget for 1 can be.

    While in the supermarket, or equivalent, you make sure you visit the pharmacy and makeup sections to ensure she’s fully stocked on first aid and toiletries, these can be incredibly costly regardless of your grooming regime.

    Again, the same with cleaning and laundry products.

    If you are providing financial support, doing so with a fixed amount on a monthly or bi-weekly basis will help them with budgeting like they would do in the work world.

    As for the rest you just have to trust in the fact that you’ve done enough to help with her self actualisation that she will be [relatively] unaffected by peer pressure and learn from the poor choices of others.

    I have mates who went to uni and came out straight laced, the ones that went “off the rails” usually ran out of money before the end of the first year.

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