Dads, it's time to have a talk with your son! He is about to embark on a new chapter in his life - college. And as he leaves the nest, you want to make sure that he knows how to stay healthy while living on his own for the first time. So we've put together some health advice that every dad should share with his son before he heads off to college. Read on for tips on eating right, staying active, and taking care of himself mentally and emotionally.
Proper Hygiene Is Still Important
Just because your son is a grown man doesn't mean that he can skimp on personal hygiene. In fact, proper hygiene is more important than ever now that he'll be living in close quarters with other people. Make sure he knows to:
- Wash his hands often and thoroughly, especially before eating or handling food
- Shower regularly (at least once a day) and clean under his arms, between his legs, and around his groin area
- Brush and floss his teeth twice a day
- Wear deodorant every day
- Keep his hair clean and styled (if he has long hair, teach him how to properly wash and condition it)
If you did things right as a dad the past few years then congrats! He should already know these things but if not, now is a time to just check-in and make sure he has a reminder.
No matter how embarrassing it might be to talk about stinky pits now, just imagine how humiliating it will be to have him teased by roomates in the dorm!
Eating Right Is Key
One of the most important things your son can do for his health is to eat right. And we don't just mean eating healthy foods - although that's important too - we also mean eating regular meals. Skipping meals or eating irregularly can lead to weight gain, low energy levels, and concentration problems. So encourage your son to:
- Eat breakfast every day
- Pack his lunch or snacks so he knows what he's eating
- Limit processed and fast foods
- Choose healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, or yogurt
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day
College can be a tough time for eating right. The stresses of college life, the freedom to make bad decisions, and the easy access to plenty of food without you and mom telling him what to eat all combine to create the "Freshman 15" in too many students.
Staying Active Is Important Too
Just because your son is not forced to have gym class or participate in varsity sports doesn't mean he should stop being active. In fact, physical activity is important for maintaining a healthy weight, improving mental health, and reducing the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, and type II diabetes. There are plenty of ways to stay active in college - from joining an intramural sports team to going for walks around campus - so encourage your son to find an activity that he enjoys and make it a part of his daily routine.
Mental Health Is More Than Smarts And Good Grades
Your son's mental health is just as important as his physical health. In fact, one in four college students suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder. Statistically, women are far more likely to be diagnosed with mental health disorders but don't let that make you think guys don't have issues too. Sadly while much of the mental health issues faced by women relate to depression, males with mental health disorders tend to manifest this with impulsive, destructive, and risky anti-social behaviors. However, men are less likely to receive treatment and are more likely to die by suicide than women according to the Centers for Disease Control. Furthermore, we men also have a near-exclusive on the topic of mass shootings in the United States too, with 124 of the shooters between 1982 and June 2022 being men while only three were female and 2 incidents involved shooters of both genders.
These big topics like above don't come from thin air. For every suicide or shooting there are hundreds of men who are simply struggling to survive and somehow manage to make it on their own. It is critical that you as a dad help your son with skills to cope and that he knows that someone cares about him and his success as a growing man.
Clearly, there is a lot of work that we need to do to help make sure that our boys are prepared for life and that warning signs of mental illness are addressed early and taken seriously.
Some common signs of mental illness in college students include:
- Withdrawing from friends and activities
- Sleeping too much or having trouble sleeping
- Eating too much or not eating enough
- Experiencing extreme changes in mood
- Abusing drugs or alcohol
- Exhibiting obsessive thoughts or behaviors
If you notice any of these signs in your son, don't hesitate to reach out to a professional for help. There are plenty of public resources available and most colleges have counseling centers as well as public safety offices to help.
College is a time of new experiences and exploration But Be Safe
Your son is probably going to experiment with drugs and alcohol at some point during his college career. It's important that he understands the risks associated with these substances and how to stay safe if he does choose to use them.
Some things he should know include:
- Avoid using drugs or alcohol in unfamiliar environments
- Don't leave his drink unattended at a party
- Never accept drinks from strangers
- Know his limits for drinking and stick to them
- Never get in a car with someone who has been drinking
By following these simple tips, your son can enjoy himself while still staying safe. Remember, you're always just a phone call away if he needs help or feels like he's in over his head.
However, drugs aren't the only new experiences that you need to be aware of. There are plenty of new ideas and techniques that he may hear about from upperclassmen, friends, or some guy on social media that might make sense but are actually BS. One major area where this is trying is with fitness and health items.
For instance, I heard about a new workout trend called "Blood Flow Restriction Training" and it sounded sorta silly and couldn't possibly be real. It involves using bfr cuffs to restrict blood flow while exercising to boost athletic training and it can even help with chronic pain and build muscles faster.
Well, it turned out that this is actually a pretty legit technique being used even by Olympic athletes!
With stuff like this as well as tons of other new ideas your son is going to face, it is very important that he knows how to do research and form his own opinon. Don't just take what the other guy says and believe it.
Get Active And Stay Healthy - Find A Workout That You Enjoy
One of the best pieces of advice that I can give you is to find a workout that you enjoy and stick with it. It doesn't have to be some crazy new fad or anything, just something that gets you up and moving.
I know it sounds cliche, but regular exercise is one of the key pillars of good health. It helps improve mental health, reduces stress levels, boosts energy levels, and so much more.
There are tons of different ways to get active, so there's bound to be something out there that you'll enjoy. If you hate running, don't do it! There's no shame in walking instead or trying a different form of cardio like swimming or biking.
The same goes for lifting weights. If you don't like lifting weights, try doing some bodyweight exercises or working with resistance bands.
The bottom line is that you need to find something that works for you and stick with it. College is a busy time and it's easy to let your health fall by the wayside. But if you make exercise a priority, you'll be setting yourself up for success both now and in the future.
Sexual Health Is Important To Take Care Of
Another important area of health that dads need to talk to their sons about is sexual health. This is a tough one for many people, but it's important to have an open and honest conversation about it.
There are a few key things that your son should know in order to stay safe and healthy:
- Consent is required always!
- Use condoms every time he has sex
- Get tested regularly for STDs
- Don't have unprotected sex with someone who has an STD
- Talk to his partner about their sexual history before having sex
- It's ok to question your sexuality and/or gender and experiment with new things but always be respectful of other people's choices and be aware that not everyone else will be, so be prepared to stay strong and don't let other people tell you that you are something you aren't.
By following these simple guidelines, your son can help keep himself and his partner safe from STDs. It's also important to encourage him to be open and honest with you about his sexual activity.
How To Get Help At College If You Have Physical or Mental Health Concerns?
If your son is heading to college, it's important to make sure that he is aware of the resources available to him if he has any physical or mental health concerns.
There are a number of different ways to get help at college if you have physical or mental health concerns. Here are a few:
Your college's counseling center:
Most colleges and universities have a counseling center where students can go to receive counseling and therapy services. This can be an extremely helpful resource for students who are struggling with mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.
Your college's health center:
Most colleges and universities also have a health center on campus where students can go to receive medical care. This can be a great resource for students who have physical health concerns such as a cold or the flu.
Your college's disability services office:
If your son has a physical or mental disability, he may be eligible for services through his college's disability services office. This can include things like extended time on exams, note-taking assistance, and more.
Making sure that your son is aware of the resources available to him at college can help him immensely if he ever finds himself in a situation where he needs help with his physical or mental health.
Family And Friends Back Home Support You!
One of the hardest things about going to college is being away from your family and friends. It's important to stay in touch with them and make time to visit when you can. They are your support system and will be there for you through thick and thin.
So that's my advice for all the dads out there with sons heading off to college. Take care of yourselves and each other! And don't forget to have some fun along the way! Thanks for reading!