By Debby Shulman
I am NOT rushing the season, I promise. But like you, I am secretly stashing my Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons, stealing them from my sister and wondering why I didn’t think of that store in the first place. I do not necessarily look forward to that field trip where an exasperated employee will explain in a monotone voice how it is that what I pick out HERE will be waiting for me when I get THERE. If my local grocery store hasn’t figured out that trick yet, how can I rely on a national chain to calm my fears?
Heading to college always seems to elicit those checklists, survival guides and recommended daily allowances. What those lists will never cover are the more serious and genuine items and issues that arise when sending kids to school. If we don’t talk about them, we’re putting our heads in the sand. So we offer you: The GIRLilla Warfare Unabridged College Guide:
*Best to review this with a nice glass of wine. Reading this without the benefit of just a little something to take the edge off may result in racing pulse, watering eyes, and a slight headache.
Send your child off to college with condoms.
Boy or Girl – IT DOES NOT MATTER. You may buy scented, ribbed, colored, triple berry or extra strength, but whatever you do, get the jumbo pack and hold your ground. If they’re too embarrassed, then just throw that box into the cart, and keep going. To pretend that they would never need one or that they would have the maturity to think ahead of time is naïve. This is the FIRST and most important item on your list. I have written about this before but it bears repeating, especially when the American Academy of Pediatrics is seeing an increase in sexually transmitted diseases in young adults.
Your daughter may be on birth control pills for her clear and youthful complexion, but please, explain why her partner must, MUST wear a condom anytime she does anything with anyone. This rule applies to that nice Jewish boy she met at the AE Pi party whose aunt went to college with your Cousin Lisa, and that adorable blond who happens to be the punter for the Fighting Illini. This includes, but is not limited to, what my mother referred to as, “putting your mouth on it.” It’s a fashion accessory, a must-have for the season. It’s like a good pair of black boots, Ladies. You cannot live without them.
Everyone gets an HPV shot.
Done and Done. Do I really need to elaborate on why it’s important to protect them from certain cancers AND sexually transmitted diseases? I didn’t think so.
Determine whether you want durable Power of Attorney for your 18 year old.
Hard to believe but if your child is 18 years old, you do not have any legal right to speak to their doctor, whether it’s in an emergency room or in a university clinic. The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) prohibits a doctor from speaking with you about your child’s health. If you feel that there are decisions you want to be a part of, should your son or daughter become sick at school, know what you can do to secure those rights.
Send a First Aid kit that looks like your medicine cabinet at home.
The Boy: “So I think I have that cold, sore throat, swollen gland thing that I get and I have that mid-term tomorrow so I’m worried I won’t sleep and what if I feel sick and I can’t take that midterm…” In a large plastic box, I packed up the entire ear, nose and throat section of my local pharmacy. Advil, Nyquil, Tylenol, a thermometer, heating pad, Neosporin, tweezers (unibrow maintenance AND splinters) Gas-X and Pepto-Bismol (dorm food is vile), Benadryl, those fake red Luden’s cough drops that we all love, Real Cough Drops that taste really bad and Sponge Bob Square Pants Band Aids.
Buy extra boxers, underwear, sox and bras.
Extras on all of them … they disappear, reappear, and end up in compromising places. What happens when the new, expensive thong you agreed to purchase gets caught in that stinky dryer in the basement of her dorm, and then hung on the community bulletin board in the common area? Yeah, nobody is going to be claiming those. Ever.
Give them cleaning supplies, paper towel, extra Kleenex.
Lots of paper towel. A gallon of Windex. It will feel so good leaving those items in their dorm room. Imagine a clean, sparkling room and freshly-washed sheets wrapped and secured on that expensive dorm bed with the Anthropologie duvet cover. Dream on. That adorable blanket you had made out of camp T-shirts as a memento? It’s under that marginally acceptable bed covered in dust bunnies and stiff ramen noodles and will not emerge until it’s packed up to go home. That room is going to be gross, but it FEELS SO GOOD TO LEAVE THE WINDEX THERE. Hope springs eternal. #Damntheyaredirty.
Tell them to NEVER pick up a drink once they have put it down.
Date Rape is serious and while this applies to both sexes; our greatest fear is naturally with young women. 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. It is not licensed for sale in the U.S. but is on college campuses everywhere.
Having your daughter put her drink down is the end of that drink. Remind her to always get her own drink, especially at bars and fraternity parties.
Hold onto it but once you put it down, forget it. When mixed with alcohol, Flunitrazepam produces disinhibition and amnesia. For that matter, remind your boys as well – it’s not safe and if they are gentleman, they should be on the look out for young men who feel this is the way to secure a sexual partner for the night.
Never walk alone at night.
When my son left for college I reminded him often; never let a girl walk home alone. It doesn’t matter how cold or awful the weather is, it doesn’t matter how far away her dorm may be, but to allow a young girl to walk home unattended is beyond dangerous and avoidable. There were plenty of nights I left a party late and figured I could get across Frat Park back to my sorority house safe and sound … I would never even suggest that today – tell your sons to NEVER let someone walk alone.
And if your daughter does choose to walk alone …
All girls should have keychains with red pepper spray.
Not sure Target has this on their ‘back-to-school’ list but carrying this item is an absolute necessity. It’s available online (Redhotpepperspray.com) and it’s only $10.95. She puts it on the key chain; she never leaves home without it.
Don’t we all want our kids to be safe, use good judgment and love their college experience?
The fact is, they all are going to have moments in which their lack of maturity and impulsivity get the best of them, and they are left regretting choices they made.
It just seems like the climate of college life has changed, and the hazards our kids face appear to be more severe or threatening than what we dealt with in college. And while I am happy to see that leg warmers, high top Reeboks and ripped sweatshirts are no longer in fashion, other more dangerous things are a part of the college milieu that we cannot control. I sincerely believe that by talking, reminding, and being open with our college kids about what is Out There — definitely creates conversation that might actually alter a poor decision.
Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: Debby Shulman is a college essay consultant and academic tutor with a private practice in Northbrook, Illinois. She also professionally collaborates with Amy Simon College Consulting in Bannockburn, Illinois. Debby also blogs about Motherhood/Teen issues for Your Teen magazine (www.yourteenmag.com). Check out her valuable advice.