Employee & Community Health

Launching your young adult

8/9/2018 by Hannah Mulholland, LICSW; Cassandra Narr, APRN, CNP

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Getting ready to send your young adult off to college or full-time work? We all want our children to be as well prepared for the future as possible, but with adolescents, it's often tricky finding a balance between giving them enough support and letting them make their own decisions (and mistakes!). 

Here are some suggestions for helping your young adult on their journey to independence — and taking charge of their own health. 

Be prepared

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends all young adults see their primary provider before heading to college or moving away. This will help them make a successful transition to taking over their own care. At this visit your young adult will be able to: 

  • Receive recommended vaccines. 
  • Get help with planning for future evaluations of chronic health conditions, such as ADHD. 
  • Renew medications they may need to take with them. 
  • Discuss contraception and important sexual health issues and practices. 
  • Talk about the increased accessibility and risks with alcohol, drugs and sexual activity. 
  • Address healthy relationships and ways to avoid or prevent situations that increase the risk of sexual assault. 
  • Review the importance of continuing daily healthy eating and exercise. 
  • Get help setting up online access. This will be important if they need to reach their regular provider for questions and advice. 

Be knowledgeable

If they haven't already, make sure your young adult is starting to take charge of their health and has researched their new home-away-from-home. Make sure they know:

  • What health services are offered, on and off campus, in their community and where they are located. 
  • Where the nearest outpatient care area and Emergency Department are located if they need immediate care. 
  • Their health insurance coverage and information. They should know how it works and have documentation or a card with them. 
  • The names, dosages and side effects of the medications they take. Also, where the nearest pharmacy is in case they need a refill. 
  • All the facts about their medical conditions or health issues, if they have them. They should be able to provide this information if they are seen in another facility. 
  • Where to get help with concerns with mood, homesickness, feeling sad, or other social situations. Help them locate the college health center or counseling services on campus or in their new community. 

Be safe

Don't shy away from talking about drugs, alcohol, relationships and sex. New pressures will arise, and you want your child to have a plan for when they're on their own and can't use their parents as an excuse to get out of tricky situations. Make it a conversation, not a lecture, and do your best to withhold judgment about what peers are doing. 

Expect lots of requests for friend time. It's normal for your teen to want to spend all their time with friends. When they're on their own, almost all interactions will be with peers, and they need to practice skills for navigating these relationships. Don't take it personally when they don't want to hang with their parents. However, set aside family time, such as meals, to stay connected and build your relationship. 

If your young adult is away and can only come home periodically, make sure to check in, especially within the first month to find out how they're doing academically and emotionally. It's normal for them to miss home or feel a little lost. However, if these feelings are getting in the way of their studies or ability to function, make sure they seek help. 

Be successful

  • Encourage problem solving. Don't automatically jump in with a suggestion or solution when your child comes to you with a problem. Prompt them to think through their options and weigh pros and cons. Let them know you will support them whatever choice they make, but understand that mistakes are the best teachers. However, don't pay for those mistakes and don't bail them out from the consequences. 
  • Decrease your financial support. If you haven't already, have your teen take some financial responsibility for themselves. Start with gas and entertainment, then move on to other expenses. This will help them understand the cost of living when they are no longer at home. It also sends the message that you view them as able to take on increasing responsibility. 
  • Help your child define success. What leads them to feel their life has value? Help your young adult weigh the importance of the different aspects of their life — income and money, relationships, career, health, family, spirituality and leisure. Avoid instilling fear and competition in them. Instead, do your best to convey excitement and a sense of adventure for what lies ahead, as well as your confidence in their ability to manage their lives successfully. 

Hannah Mulholland, LICSW, is a clinical social worker serving children and adolescents in Employee and Community Health's (ECH) Division of Integrated Behavioral Health (IBH). 

Cassandra Narr, APRN, CNP, is a nurse practitioner caring for children and adolescents in ECH's Division of Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine (CPAM).