What Your Daughter Needs to Know Before She Leaves for College
The month before my own daughter left for her freshman year in college, I sank into three weeks of depression and I couldn't figure out exactly what I was so sad about. My daughter was still at home. She was still demanding, still making messes all over the house and generally driving me crazy. Furthermore, her senior year in high school had been a real workout; I was exhausted from parenting my teenage girl! Didn't I need a break and wasn't I looking forward to it?
Eventually, a wise and experienced friend a few years my senior told me I was depressed because I knew deep down that my daughter was leaving home—really leaving home—and our relationship would never be the same. But sad or not, I knew that despite my daughter's enthusiasm about college, she was probably as nervous as I was upset. So I had to rise to the occasion and pull myself up by my bootstraps. This was no time to lose my bearings as senior adviser—I had advice I needed to give.
College campuses are worlds unto themselves, and the communities they provide for our kids are shaping and significant. They make lifelong friends, learn new and exciting things about the world and often meet the person they'll end up loving more than anyone they've ever known. This is big stuff. Giving our young adult daughters good advice is important, and we need to provide this advice with insight and humor—otherwise, they won't listen to or remember anything we say.
Get the four things you must tell your daughter before she goes to college
1. Take precautions against sexual assault. Your daughter will be shocked that you said this and undoubtedly will accuse you of being crazy. But the truth is rape on college campuses is a real problem and so are roofies—the "date rape drug." We need to discuss rape prevention with girls in an open and direct way. Somehow, those of us graduates of the feminist movement feel that doing so is like pre-emptively blaming the victim. Not true. Prevention of anything bad makes sense, no matter what it is.
2. Learn about and acquaint your daughter with the health services provided by her college, including the mental health counseling services. College health services are staffed with healthcare professionals experienced in caring for young adults. They can be invaluable resources, and your daughter should be encouraged to take advantage of these services as needed.
3. Remind your girl of the importance of sleep. And, if she comes home for a visit and spends most of her time sleeping, don't be angry about it. College kids are often sleep deprived, and this can lead to increased susceptibility to illnesses, depression, weight gain and poor academic performance...not to mention a miserable day-to-day life.
4. And lastly, make sure your daughter has an effective contraceptive method. Ideally, you had this conversation with her in high school, but in case you haven't, do it before she leaves for college. And remind her of the importance of condoms for STD prevention, because now that she can vote and join the armed forces without your permission, she can certainly decide to have sex without consulting you first. Remember, your values may be very different from hers, but you need to speak the language that says: "I care for you first and want you to be safe, whether I approve of your choices or not."
Sending our girls off to college is rough. The transition is huge for parents and for kids, and we need to give our daughters sensible and useful advice. Despite your sadness over her departure, continue being her loving parent and send her off with information to help her stay safe as she takes this giant step into the big world. And if you feel depressed because she is leaving, just remember that it's a phase...and phases pass. Before you know it, she'll be calling you for advice about something you could never have imagined, just like she always has.
Evelyn Resh is director of sexuality and relationships programming for Miraval Resorts in Tucson. She is a certified sexuality counselor and nurse-midwife and continues her practice in both fields in Tucson and Western Massachusetts. She has taken care of teens and women of all ages in OB-GYN and primary care settings for more than 20 years and specializes in working with women 25 and under. She is also the mother of a 19-year-old daughter. Resh speaks all over the nation on topics related to women's health and sexual satisfaction and is the author of the new book The Secret Lives of Teen Girls: What Your Mother Wouldn't Talk About But Your Daughter Needs to Know published by Hay House Publishers.
More from Evelyn Resh:
I love my teenage daughter, but...
How to talk to your daugther about weight
Inside the secret culture of cool