Health Notes

Last Minute Life Lessons

by Dr. Elizabeth Walenz on May 9, 2017

Father and graduate son celebratingIt’s May, the time for graduation. Kids are graduating from preschool, finishing kindergarten, stepping up from middle school, or ending their high school careers. And for those students leaving the nest, it’s time for the parental full-court press.

What direction can we give to these high school seniors? How can we guide them through their next phase of life?

Whether your child plans to further their education in college or step into their first “real” job out on their own, parents can use this “in-between” time to teach a few last-minute life lessons. Here’s this pediatrician’s “top nine” checklist your child needs to know:

1.  Teach your child to cook. Whether it is mom’s meatloaf or dad’s lasagna, each high school senior should have one meal in their back pocket. Spend time with your teen to teach him or her their way around the kitchen. Give them one recipe they can rely on to make for himself or a group of friends.

2.  Talk about nutrition. Kids have gone through health classes and learned about nutrition and “My Plate.” They may have paid attention. Now it’s your turn to involve them in the healthy eating process. Take them to the grocery store and the produce section and show them choices for healthy meals. Restaurants and the college cafeteria offer fast, easy, yummy foods (i.e. soft serve ice cream) that can contribute to the “Freshman 15.” Talk to your teen about calories and how many they need per day. Discuss healthy options to keep in their dorm room such as granola bars, dried fruit or mixed nuts that may help satisfy late night hunger cravings.

Dr. Elizabeth Walenz, Methodist Physicians Clinic pediatrician
Elizabeth Walenz, MD

3.  Tell them to not stop exercising. Does your teen exercise regularly? Have they ever been to a gym? Now that they’re out of school, P.E., school athletics and strength training are no longer part of their school day. However, most universities have excellent work out facilities. You can also take them to check out a gym locally and even meet a personal trainer. This will help your teen to avoid injury as well as help promote regular exercise. Check out a yoga class and discuss meditation.

4.  Discuss life balance. College is not all about studying. Work is not 24 hours a day. Discuss healthy socialization with your teen. Talk about how much sleep they still need per night and how to manage their stress.

5.  Talk about making important decisions about sex. An 18-year old is an adult, and this includes adult decisions about serious relationships and sex. Talk to your teen about staying safe, protecting themselves from sexually transmitted diseases as well as unplanned pregnancy.

6.  Educate them about drugs and alcohol. An 18-year old should be reminded that while they are an adult, they are not 21. There may be pressures off-campus when it comes to drinking and drugs, and they may decide to experiment. Discuss openly with your teen the importance of a good friend. If a teen decides to try alcohol or marijuana, make sure they have a good friend or group of friends that will watch out for him or her, and get him or her home safely.

7.  Show them how to take care of their health. Discuss health care and how to get care when they need it. Is there a health center on campus? If sick while out of town, how will your teen be seen? If your child is on medications, will those continue on? It is recommended for all girls age 21 and over to have their first visit to the gynecologist for a pap smear. All 18-year olds should have their cholesterol checked as well. Blood pressure should be checked at least once every three years.

8.  Get them their immunizations. Is your teen up to date with their immunizations? The last tetanus vaccine was given at 7th grade. It should be renewed every 10 years. The teen should have two menactra vaccines given at 7th grade and again at age 15. The teen should also have received 2-3 HPV vaccines as well as the Meningitis B vaccine. I would also recommend a yearly flu vaccine.

9.  Keep in touch. Perhaps the best tip of all, is to discuss the importance of family. Check in with your teen periodically – more than just the holidays. Keep track of how they are doing, don’t only discuss friends, work or school. Talk about wellness and how your teen is doing as a young adult.

Parenting never stops, even once your child leaves the nest. For more ways on how you can help set your child up for success after they leave home, talk with your Methodist Physicians Clinic health care provider.

Dr. Elizabeth Walenz is a pediatrician now seeing patients at
Methodist Physicians Clinic Regency.
Contact Dr. Walenz at
Dr. Elizabeth Walenz, Methodist Physicians Clinic pediatrician


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: