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FOR RELEASE: August 12, 2003
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Parents’ Back-To-School Guidelines for College-Bound Kids

Parents may feel apprehensive about their adolescent departing for college. The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) offers the following talking points for discussion with any college-bound student:

Dorm Safety

  • Practice Fire Safety Prevention
    • Cooking is the second leading cause of dorm fires; never leave a stove or oven unattended and always have a fire extinguisher handy.
    • Don’t overload extension cords, power strips or outlets.
    • Use an electric space heater with automatic cutoff if it overheats or tips over.
    • Never cover light bulbs with paper or clothing.
    • Never smoke in bed. Do not empty ashtrays into garbage or other containers where flammables might be present.
    • Never leave candles or incense unattended or near flammable objects.
    • Don’t ignore fire alarms and never disable a smoke alarm or hang items from the sprinkler system.
    • Have an evacuation plan with two separate exits from your room.
  • Always lock your door when the room is unoccupied or when you are sleeping.
  • Immediately report any suspicious person in the dorm.
  • Let your family, friends or your RA know if you are not going to be on campus for any length of time including weekends, holidays, etc.
  • Do not allow individuals that you do not know into the dorm.

Staying Healthy

  • Nutrition
    • Eat well-balanced meals with recommended servings of fiber, dairy, protein, carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables.
    • Drink 6 to 8 8-ounce glasses of water (including caffeine-free beverages) each day.
    • Keep healthy, “convenience” foods on hand such as fat-free or low-fat yogurt and fresh fruit and vegetables.
    • Limit the number of times you eat out during the week.
  • Physical Activity
    • Aim for 30 minutes or more of physical activity on most days.
    • Walk or ride a bike instead of driving.
    • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
    • Park further away from entrances and walk.
  • Get Enough Rest
    • Strive for 8 hours sleep each night and keep a regular sleep schedule.
  • Stress Reduction
    • Prioritize - make the most of your time, make lists and check off your accomplishments.
    • Keep realistic expectations of what you can do.
    • Schedule time for yourself.
    • Keep a journal.
    • Budget your time and your money.
    • Develop a healthy lifestyle.
    • Help others by volunteering.
    • Confide in a friend or a colleague.

Insurance Needs

  • College students should consider their needs for health insurance in addition to automobile and renter’s insurance.
  • Check into what existing coverage full-time students may have under their parents’ policy.

Driving Safety

  • Always buckle up. Seat belts save lives.
  • Don’t drink and drive. If you plan to drink, designate a non-drinking driver.
  • Driver fatigue is a serious danger. Road trip tips include:
    • Be fresh and alert. Do not begin a long trip late in the day.
    • If possible, do not drive alone.
    • Avoid long drives at night.
    • Do not use cruise control; keep your body involved with the driving.
    • Take frequent breaks. At least every two hours, stop at a gas station to eat or for exercise breaks to help fight fatigue.
    • Wear sunglasses to fight glare (but never at night).
    • If you begin noticing signs of fatigue, it is best to find a safe area to rest.

Preventing Date Rape

  • Do not give out phone numbers to people you do not know.
  • Agree to meet people you do not know well in public places only
  • Go on group dates with your own friends along.
  • Alcohol is the number one date rape drug; not using drugs and alcohol can increase safety on dates.
  • Parents need to look for opportunities to have open communication with their college-bound teen.
  • Parents can reiterate that they discourage alcohol and drug use.

Suicide Prevention/Mental Health

Talk to your teen about anxiety and depression, as well as suicide. Talking about suicide does not increase someone’s risk. Remind them that you are available to them and teach them how to be available to others.

  • Most suicides can be prevented - always take the mention of suicide seriously.
  • Allow a person talking about suicide to share his or her feelings.
  • Don’t lecture or make moral judgments.
  • Don’t change the subject.
  • Don’t promise to keep it a secret.
  • Don’t leave an actively suicidal person alone.
  • Get help immediately by involving a counselor, health professional, family member, etc.

For more information about back-to-school guidelines for college age students or talking with teens, call the OSDH Child and Adolescent Health Division,
at 405/271-4471.

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