Teaching teens how to manage their health care is an essential part of supporting their independence. If your child is moving to college or out on their own soon, encourage them to schedule an appointment to see their doctor.

“Because kids are busy throughout high school, a lot of us parents of older kids have done all of the logistics for them in regard to their health care,” says pediatrician Dr. Pilar Bradshaw. “So, before your child goes to college, or when they get to campus with you, make sure they learn the answers to some very important questions, including where is my student health center? Where is the nearest emergency room to my college campus? Where will I get my prescriptions filled? Those are really important things to know.”

Schedule a check-up
Your child’s doctor can also make sure that your student is up to date on their immunizations, which is important because young adults are at risk for over a dozen vaccine-preventable diseases, including meningitis B, human papillomavirus (HPV) and COVID-19.

“During that appointment, your teen can also talk with their doctor about healthy sleep and eating habits, how to manage stress and how to manage their time,” says Dr. Bradshaw. “Because moving out on their own and having to manage their own schedule and fully care for themselves is quite a big change for a lot of kids.”

Health insurance
Make sure that your teen has health insurance and knows how to access and use it. Most colleges require students to have health insurance, and many institutions offer plans for students who are not already covered. Many young adults can also be covered under their parents’ health insurance until they turn 26. Take the time to review the specifics of all health insurance plans available to your teen, since some may only provide limited coverage or benefits.

While it may seem easy to you, be sure to teach your teen how to schedule a doctor’s appointment, how to use their insurance card and what a copay is. If they learn in advance, they will feel more familiar with the process when the time comes to seek medical services.

HIPPA release forms
Be aware that when your teen turns 18, you are no longer privy to their medical information, so it’s important for parents and teens to have a serious discussion about signing a HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) release form before teens head off to college. This form allows physicians to release medical information to parents and allows parents to make medical decisions if their teen is unconscious or injured and unable to care for themselves.

Signing this form also means that parents can access medical records throughout the school year.

Supporting your teen’s mental health
Your student’s mental health is just as important as their physical health, so be sure to talk with your teen about how to access mental health services on campus, if needed.

It’s also important to help your student find healthy outlets when they are feeling overwhelmed, as well as how to build a new support system away from their family, which colleges say is the number one challenge students face outside of the classroom.

Resources are available
Most colleges and universities have orientation programs for both students and parents to prepare them for the transition from high school to college. Taking advantage of your school’s programs will help you and your student feel more comfortable about what’s to come.