If your student has never lived away from home before – and most Wake Forest students have not – being a college student means being fully responsible and autonomous for all aspects of daily life. Absent Mom, Dad, or another family member or loved one setting household rules on when to go to sleep or wake up, what to eat or drink, when to exercise, when to play, when to study, etc., students must set their own schedules, attend to their physical needs, and determine how they want to handle emotional needs and romantic relationships.
Students must exercise their newfound freedom to make healthy and wise decisions about their health and wellbeing. As parents and family members, we all want our students to make good choices and be successful. Here are a few helpful things you might want to stress with your student so that they achieve optimum balance and wellbeing:
Encourage your student to get enough sleep. Whether your student is a morning person or a night person, one of the keys to being a healthy and successful student is to be adequately rested. It could be 8 hours a night or 6 hours with power naps during the day – whatever helps your student feel at their best.
Talk about the importance of moderation – in diet, in exercise, in everything. Going overboard is never a good thing. Encourage your student to eat a healthy and balanced diet, avoiding overindulging or undereating. Families may have heard the term the “Freshman Fifteen” [pounds gained], but it is not cause for alarm. If your student has gained weight – do not talk about it and make it an issue! Instead, show your student that you love them for who they are, not how much they weigh. If your student has a concern about their eating habits, they can seek the resources available in the University Counseling Center and the Student Health Service. If your student wants assistance with alcohol or other drug misuse, they can seek support from the Office of Wellbeing’s Alcohol and Other Drugs team.
Remind your student not to overcommit. Many students are used to juggling very busy high school schedules with incredible extracurricular schedules. At least for the first semester, encourage your student to pursue a manageable number of activities. Your student can always add more activities later, but will be happier if they are not overextended and trying to balance too much too soon.
Stress personal hygiene and preventative care. Good habits – like hand washing, taking vitamins, not sharing utensils or drinks with others, getting a flu shot and an updated COVID shot, and avoiding people who are sick – can help your student stay healthy on campus.
Remind your student to pay attention to the heart as well as the head. College is a lot of hard work, and studies should come first. But we also have to attend to how we are feeling. Urge your Deac to take a break, go on a walk, have a fun lunch with friends. Make sure every day has both work and joy – in whatever form is most meaningful to the student.
And perhaps the most difficult one: talk to your student about personal responsibility and safety re: alcohol or other drugs and/or sexual activity. While the drinking age is 21, some first year students will experiment with alcohol – hopefully in moderation. Some will be sexually active – hopefully using protection. Each family has their own comfort zone in discussing these matters. There are resources available on campus via the Student Health Service, the University Counseling Center , and/or the Office of Wellbeing’s Alcohol and Other Drugs team for students who want to talk to someone about issues of sexuality or alcohol and other drugs. But above all, urge your students to be safe in whatever they do.
We want our students to be healthy in all eight dimensions of their wellbeing: emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social, and spiritual. Encourage them to do so!