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The hazards of university life

University is a great learning experience, but it also has its share of hazards. This guide can help you make sure your kids have the tools to enjoy the college experience in a healthy, happy way.

Prepping for the college experience
College student

Poor sleep patterns

Teens are presented with a variety of new tasks and ways to spend their time when they arrive at university for the first time. Whether it’s from studying and completing assignments or from staying out late with friends, teens are likely to get caught up in irregular sleep patterns. Before your child heads off to university, teach them all you can about time management so they have a better understanding of how to work efficiently and make time for the sleep they need.


When your teen has spent most of their life eating food provided by you, they may struggle when they have to find every meal and snack of the day on their own. Livestrong reports that such factors as access to unhealthy options, increased alcohol intake, unpredictable eating schedules and stressful situations can all lead to poor nutrition. So the best thing you can do for your teen is to arm them with the knowledge they need to eat healthy throughout their university experience. Teach your teen how to spot healthy choices, such as whole-grain toast or oatmeal for breakfast, sandwiches or salads for lunch and stir-fries or wraps for dinner. Advise them to eat regularly and to fuel up with healthy snacks, such as cheese, fruit or natural granola bars.

Exposure to drugs and alcohol

These days, many young people have some exposure to drugs and alcohol before university. But such items are often more readily available at university, which can make teens more likely to overindulge. The Office of Alcohol and Drug Education refers to several dangers that come with overindulgence in alcohol. Binge drinking can lead to academic challenges, memory loss, alcohol poisoning, injury, sexual assault and even death. The Higher Education Center reports that 75 per cent of women who report sexual assault on campus were under the influence of alcohol at the time of the assaut. Many students also report academic consequences caused by missing class and falling behind due to excessive nightly drinking. Make sure your teen understands the signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning and is aware of the dangers of drinking too much. University is certainly a time to have fun, but you want them to enjoy themselves in a safe and healthy manner, so ensure they are aware of the dangers and how to stay safe.

Stress and depression

Teens experience a lot of changes all at once when they head off to university. They’re living on their own, meeting new people, being presented with new academic challenges and more. All these changes can cause teens to feel stress in new and troubling ways. Make sure your teen knows it’s OK to talk about feeling overwhelmed or stressed and to seek out assistance. Virtually every Canadian university offers free counselling to students, and counsellors are happy to help teens adjust. According to Healthzone, a study done at McMaster University reported that more than half the students coming to the mental health centre reported anxiety and/or depression, and 15 per cent were struggling with adjusting and homesickness. Healthzone also reported that one in 10 university students has suicidal thoughts. Assure your teen that feeling anxious or depressed is completely natural and that there is no need to feel embarrassed. By keeping the lines of communication open, you can ensure your new university student never feels alone and always has someone to talk things through with.

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