Last updated on September 25th, 2023 at 08:12 pm
Sending your child off to college is nerve-wracking under the best of circumstances. Your teen is starting their life away from the support of home and is taking a major step toward becoming an independent adult–you can’t help but worry!
However, the college years can be even more stressful if your teen is medically vulnerable. It’s all too easy to imagine an emergency at school, since medical issues can often flare up without warning, requiring an immediate response.
But remember, you aren’t the first parent to send a medically vulnerable kid to college. And, because of this, many large campuses have a team of dedicated support staff on hand to help make the transition easier.
This means you can put your effort toward making sure that your child feels supported, rather than constrained, during their college years.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at how to best help your teen make the move to college life when medical challenges are part of the picture.
Research Access to Healthcare Resources
When researching prospective schools, look for universities that have a large healthcare department on campus. Many universities have dedicated student healthcare facilities designed specifically for the student population.
And, while reaching out to professors and department deans, also consider emailing the relevant health services contacts.
Usually, on-campus healthcare providers will be happy to answer your queries and can reassure you that they have experience dealing with your child’s medical condition or vulnerability.
Work with your insurance provider to figure out if a campus is a good fit too. Many on-campus health services take most forms of insurance, but you’ll want to double-check before enrolling your child in a new school.
You may need to look at nearby providers if your child’s school isn’t in your insurance network. Finding in-network providers near the school can be tricky, but may make the transition easier.
Kathy Przywara, whose children have asthma, stresses that you must “know what’s in your policy and make sure that the things you are going to need are covered.”
Also, consider whether or not the school itself offers health insurance that will allow your child to access care on campus. This will keep you from having to worry so much about your child and will ensure that bills don’t pile up should your child have an emergency or need regular care while at school.
Mental Health Services
College is a mentally taxing time for teens and young adults under any circumstances. When your child is medically vulnerable, the stress level can be even higher.
Unfortunately, student mental health is in crisis across the nation, with increases in demand at counseling centers rising sharply over the past decade.
You can help make the transition to college easier for your medically vulnerable child by researching counseling services and mental health support before they leave.
Many campuses offer dedicated sessions for students and some even offer free group therapy. This can help your child meet others and will give them an additional safety net should their mental well-being decline.
The summer before the semester starts is the perfect time to talk about social media addiction too. Social media has a net negative effect on mental health and can be extremely addictive to young people.
Too much time spent on social media impedes emotional regulation and may lead to an increased likelihood of depression.
This doesn’t mean you should force your teenager to delete their social media apps. Instead, open low-stakes conversations that help them understand how social media sites can lead to worsening mental health.
Making the Transition Smoother
Ultimately, you want your child to enjoy their college experience and make the most of their final years in school.
Help them start off on the right foot by creating a moving strategy to get them ready for the change. A good strategy should include details like:
- Signing up for alerts and emails to stay updated on the latest information on dorm move-in dates, parking information, and to get recommended supply lists;
- Creating a list of tools and supplies that you’ll need when moving your child into their dorm;
- Picking up packing supplies and storage items well in advance;
- Visiting your child’s new medical care provider to get familiar with the new facility.
Even confident teens may get a little apprehensive when the big day approaches. It’s entirely normal to feel uneasy during this time.
Try to bring a relaxed, supportive presence to every conversation and simply be there for your child when they need your support. This will help your teen feel more secure and can set them on a path of self-advocacy going forward.
Watching your medically vulnerable child head off to college isn’t always easy. However, there are ways to prepare them–and yourself.
You can take care of sorting out their health insurance and finding new doctors long before they make the move. This will give your young adult a chance to focus on meeting new friends and adjusting to university life.
As moving day approaches, be prepared with checklists of everything they’ll need. Remain calm and supportive and give them the space they need to grow.
You might want to indulge in a little self-care too. After all, your life is in transition as well, so don’t forget to take care of yourself!