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Straight Talk TNT: Mom seeks realistic tips for college-bound daughter

By: Lauren Forcella
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Dear Straight Talk: My daughter starts college next week and I’m wondering what real-life advice the panel and you have for her. I am concerned about hookups, binge-drinking and depression, three things I hear are widespread in colleges. She is worried about gaining weight. What is everyone’s best advice? ~ MaryAnn, Monterey Geoff, 25, Redding: Even if your daughter doesn’t binge drink, odds are she’ll be around it. Make sure she knows what to do with people passed out, vomiting, etc. The more you know what to do in dangerous situations, the more apt you are to avoid one yourself. See this link for tips on helping a drunk friend: http://healthcenter.ucdavis. edu/topics/alcoholpoisoning. html. Hookups: If you do hookup, don’t assume the guy will have condoms. Many won’t. Depression: It’s really common. I went through it myself. Find support among your friends. Some of mine admitted feeling the same way so we scheduled health center appointments together. After the first appointment, we started gym routines which really helped. Gregg, 20, Los Angeles: Best thing for me was keeping a low profile on my night life. Nothing much good happens after 10 p.m. College is a time to create good habits and set goals. Not gaining weight is a good goal. Write it down and go toward it. Enjoy college! It only happens once. Nicole, 21, Grass Valley: People learn best from experience, so don’t look at all this as totally negative. These are all situations your daughter must learn to manage. Brie, 20, Santa Barbara: I started college nervous, not knowing my roommates or anyone. Now I can’t wait for school to start! I work two jobs and am a full-time student, so I skip worrying about small stuff. I do carve out time to party with my friends and roommates. It’s part of college. Have confidence in your daughter. There were days when I overdid things, but you learn your limits quickly. So far, I’ve not gained weight. I credit the healthy eating habits from my upbringing and also my active jobs. Christina, 19, Marysville: A lot depends on the college. After always attending small schools, I chose a community college so I wouldn’t be in culture shock and make bad decisions. Sarah, 19, Redding: Your college experience is decided by you and you alone. You can party every night and make poor relationship and health decisions, or you can start good habits that will benefit you throughout life. The biggest influence on my decisions was my friends. Choose them wisely and half the battle is won! Dear MaryAnn: I would like to add to this solid advice by begging students to utilize their college student health centers! They’ve got all the college problems dialed in: loneliness, home-sickness, heartbreak, anxiety, eating disorders, sexuality questions, pharmaceutical abuse, alcohol abuse and more. Two keys to success are emotional intelligence and self-honesty. Students: ask yourself honestly on a regular basis: “Am I “stuffing” my stress with alcohol, drugs, food, or empty hookups? If the answer is yes, find healthy ways to de-stress — or get help. It can become a vicious cycle. The anxiety of feeling lonely or goal-less can lead to drinking, which can lead to a pointless hookup, which can lead to drowning that emptiness with more drugs or alcohol. It can look like “everyone” is partying and hooking up, but there are multitudes of hip young people who are not. Many college students aren’t even sexually active yet. (It’s fact.) To keep stress levels down: exercise, get your sleep, eat balanced meals (avoid sugar, caffeine and those tasty, fattening carbs served everywhere), cultivate caring friends, set goals, and follow your conscience. It rarely steers you wrong. ~Lauren For more discussion, to ask a question, or inquire about being a youth panelist, visit http://www.straighttalkTNT.com or write POB 963 Fair Oaks, CA 95628. More from Lauren Forcella I recommend that parents of college students keep the doorways of conversation open by adopting a non-judgmental loving attitude that says “I’m curious! What is your world like?” Learn, especially, how to talk frankly about sexuality and pornography so you can inquire about this part of the college scene, too. It’s embarrassing, so unless you’re actively “curious” about it, you won’t hear a whisper about it. Pornography is mainstream in the college scene and has caused a shift in sexual expression. Having grown up immersed in this new sexual context (whether they watch it or not), many young people feel adrift and empty when it comes to love and sex and don’t even know why. Your perspective can help since you grew up in a different time and can offer options and alternatives to what many think (through no fault of their own), is the status quo. But do it tactfully. ‘Be curious, not furious’ so your adult child keeps talking to you — rather than feeling judged and deciding to avoid intimate conversation. Use Skype as often as possible to talk to each other via free video on your computers. You can tell a lot about how someone’s doing when you can look in their eyes. Above all, trust your parental intuition. Some kids do fine, others struggle and then get their bearings, and the struggle is good for them, others really do need help. College age is when most suicides occur. Frequent Skyping and a caring attitude do wonders to stayed tuned in. —Lauren