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Health & Parenting

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Going to College: How to Prepare

Here are some important tips to make the transition to college a little easier.

Let's Talk About Sex continued...

While the great majority of students don't have multiple sex partners, a lot of students are going to have sexual relationships at college, and for many it will be their first time.

"It's important to keep the lines of communication open, especially during the first year of college," says Kenzig. Hopefully, you've talked to your kids about safer sex; however, some students might not want to involve their parents when it comes to sexual health issues, and you might be more than willing to respect their privacy. That's why on-campus resources are so important.

Part of the health program at Columbia is an online service called Go Ask Alice!, where students and parents from all over the country -- including you -- can ask questions about anything from sex to drugs and alcohol, relationships, and more.

Most schools offer health services that include birth control and testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Students over 18 need to give written permission for the college to share any medical information, or even notify parents when students are ill.

Drugs and Alcohol on Campus

"Because of the way their brains are wired, college students are more susceptible to overuse of drugs or alcohol, which can lead to extremely serious problems," says David Fassler, MD, a child and adolescent psychiatrist. He says college students can consume greater quantities of drugs and alcohol than adults and often appear to be able to better function than adults, even when very impaired.

Parents might be relieved to know, however, that most students don't abuse drugs or alcohol, says Fabiano. A history of drug or alcohol problems within the family will increase the likelihood that your kid will develop problems. That's why Fabiano says you should never glorify your old drinking days if you had them.

If they do screw up, don't panic. Fabiano says that tripping early in the college career is often a part of exploration and a newfound sense of independence. That doesn't mean that you should turn a blind eye, however, if you suspect your kid is in the midst of a drug or alcohol problem.

Educating your kid before they leave may be your best defense against drug or alcohol abuse. Letting them know about the risks of partying too hard -- alcohol poisoning or drunk driving, for example -- will better prepare them. Rothstein says frequently colleges and universities send educational information concerning drugs and alcohol home before the school year starts. Some students are even asked to complete a program online and a knowledge quiz. The Minnesota Institute of Public Health, for example, designed an information brochure for schools to use, which you can download or read online.

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