For many teens, going off to college or moving out is the next step from adolescence toward adulthood.

If you have a teen leaving the nest, take the time to make sure they know how to manage their physical and mental health when they’re on their own.

Empowering your teen
Life after high school is a big milestone for teens. Whether they’re moving to campus or just moving out, there’s so much they need to know and life skills they need to learn.

“It really is a transitional period,” says Dr. Pilar Bradshaw of Eugene Pediatric Associates. “Every child who is becoming an adult needs a support system on campus or when they’re away from home.”

Navigating health care
Dr. Bradshaw says it’s crucial to teach your teens how to navigate and manage their health care.

“Talk about accessing medical and mental health care while they’re at their college or university,” she says. “Help them learn the logistics, like you need to carry your driver’s license, you need to carry your insurance card in your wallet at all times.”

Here are a few more key things to review:

  • Be sure they know how to make their own medical appointments.
  • Demonstrate how to refill a prescription.
  • Teach them what a co-pay is and ensure they understand their medical history, medications and allergies.
  • Make sure they know the locations of the student health center and the nearest emergency room.

Mitigating risk
Part of the transition from childhood to adulthood is to be prepared and learn the risks of alcohol, drugs and sexual behavior.

“Talk to your kid about safety at parties,” Dr. Bradshaw says. “Even if your kid swears they’re never going to go to a party, talk to them anyway about keeping themselves safe.”

Inexperience with alcohol creates the real danger of overindulgence, including being exposed to dangerous drugs being dropped into drinks.

“Talk about alcohol and drug use on campus,” Dr. Bradshaw says. “It’s really important because young kids who are having an early introduction to alcohol are known to drink a lot very quickly and are at very high risk of alcohol poisoning.”

Protection from sexually transmitted infections is another important topic of discussion. That talk can be uncomfortable for some parents, but a pediatrician can help, Dr. Bradshaw says.

“Even if it’s uncomfortable for you to talk about sex, go to your kid’s pediatrician and tee up that conversation, and then leave the room and let your doctor talk to them,” she says. “Somebody needs to talk to your kids about protecting themselves from STIs.”

How to cope with stress
Another vital part of preparing your teen for life on their own is helping them understand the importance of protecting their mental health. Reassure them that it’s normal to feel sad or lonely or overwhelmed at times.

According to the American Institute of Stress, today’s college population is experiencing stress at unparalleled levels with eight out of 10 students reporting that they deal with it frequently.

Encourage your teen to practice self-care through meditation, other relaxation techniques and exercise.

Dr. Bradshaw says one tool to help relieve stress is time management—if your teen can learn how to manage all the things that need their attention, they’re less likely to be stressed and anxious.

“It’s often the case that we’ve been doing time management for our teens, but they really need to know that they’re going to need time to do their laundry,” she says. “These are things that are very new, and it seems like maybe you wouldn’t need to talk to your kid about it but remember, you’re an adult who’s been adulting for a long time. This is your child’s first time to be adulting for themselves.”