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 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 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 he or she achieves 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 his or her best.
Stress 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. To quote our “Just for Parents” moderators at Orientation, if your student has gained weight – do not talk about it and make it an issue! Remind your student that you love him/her for who they are, not how much they weigh. And if your student has a concern about her eating habits, you can point out that there are resources available in the Counseling Center.
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 and devote him/herself to them. Your student can always add more activities later, but will be happier if he/she is not overextended and trying to balance too much too soon.
Stress personal hygiene and preventative care. Good habits – like hand washing, taking vitamins, avoiding others who are sick, and getting vaccines for the flu and other common college ailments – can help your student stay healthy on campus. Consider recommending your student go to the Student Health Center for the flu vaccine.
Remind your student to pay attention to the heart as well as the head. This is a beautiful campus, and college should be fun. Take a break. Take a walk outside. 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 in matters of alcohol and sexual activity. Though 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 and the University Counseling Center for students who want to talk to someone about issues of sexuality or alcohol. 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!
To contact the Office of Family Engagement, please visit our contact page.
One of the best ways parents/families can help their students is to let them solve their own problems. Use the Stop, Drop, and Roll method when your student contacts you with a problem. The flyer also lists contact information for serious concerns where family intervention might be appropriate.
Select slide shows from Orientation sessions are available online.