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Preparing for College Life: 6 Things Parents and Teens Need to Talk About

by Debby Shulman

Many of the responsibilities that accompany parents with incoming freshmen preparing for college life fall into that awkward conversation that make the strongest parents uncomfortable. Your Teen has wisely offered steps to begin the serious discussion of safety and security while getting ready for college. Dan Borison and other Your Teen bloggers have acknowledged the pervasive serious concerns in heading off to college unprepared for safe sexual experiences. Here’s my back-to-school list for safe sex education and discussion.

Preparing for College Life

1. Condoms

Condoms are a necessity for both girls and boys. Giving our daughters the tools to make good choices when her partner may not, and encouraging safe sex even if she is on birth control is critical. Pretending that she will not need one or that you are encouraging reckless behavior is naïve; give her a box of condoms and make sure she understands when they are to be used (for both oral sex and intercourse) and how to properly put one on. Our boys deserve the same, gay or straight; pack the jumbo box.

2. HPV Shots

Every teen heading to college must have had their series of HPV shots (both boys and girls). For more information on this valuable vaccine, contact the Centers for Disease Control at

3.  Durable Power of Attorney

Determine whether or not you want Durable Power of Attorney for your 18 year old. Once your child is 18, you no longer have any legal right to speak to their physician, whether it is in an emergency room or a follow up phone call. The Health Information and Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) prohibit a doctor from giving you any information about your child’s health. If you want to be part of decisions should your son or daughter get sick at school, know what you need to do to secure those rights.

4.  Guard Your Drink

Tell your daughter to NEVER pick up a drink once she has put it down.

Stories abound concerning the availability of drugs that when mixed with alcohol, will induce a mild euphoria and sense of sedation. The drug Rohypnol is where the term, ‘rufies’ originated and while that has become increasingly hard to find, it has been replaced with Flunitrazepam. When mixed with alcohol, Flunitrazepam produces disinhibition and amnesia. It is not licensed for sale in the U.S. but is on college campuses everywhere.  Your daughter must know that if she puts her drink down, it is the end of that drink. Remind her to always get her own drink, especially at bars and fraternity parties.

Just as important, remind your boys that they should be on the lookout for young men who feel that drugging a girl is the way to secure a sexual partner for the night.

5.  Pepper Spray Key Chain

All students, especially girls, should have a red pepper spray key chain. It’s available online at and it only costs $10.95.  This goes on her key chain and she never leaves home without it. Being prepared and having this at her immediate reach could save her life.

6.  Never Walk Alone at Night

Let’s remind our students never to walk alone at night. When my oldest left for college, we reminded him: never let a girl walk home alone. It does not matter how far away her dorm may be, how casually you know her; never create an excuse to let a young lady leave alone.

The climate of college life has changed. Before you drop them off, start preparing for college life. We must acknowledge that there are now social concerns that warrant discussion. I will not take the risk that my kids already know all of the potential dangers. We may feel some discomfort as I explain my six college “Musts,” but the moment of discomfort far outweighs the potential risks of staying quiet.

Post this on their door, leave it on their bed. It’s time to get the conversation started.