6 Things Parents Didn't Think They'd Say to College-Bound Kids

Talk to strangers, eat quickly, go to the bars – and more surprising things you’ll say to your kids.


We strive to teach our children important life lessons throughout their lifetimes, particularly during childhood – the formative years. Before you turn around, kids turn into adults. And although they'll be convinced they know it all, as parents, you may still have a word or two that could help guide their future decisions.

People who have experienced near drowning often recall that, during the struggle, they saw their lives flash before them. Albeit not quite as dramatic, this past week, while packing up things for my youngest son to take to college, I reflected on scenes from his early years. Parents who are empty nesters (though I'm not sure whether I like that term yet) experience bittersweet feelings when facing a new phase of their lives – elated about having more free time, coupled with a side-dish of concern about how their student will cope with his or her new life.

As you enter these uncharted waters, and before your car pulls away from that dorm, here are a few pearls of wisdom to pass along that you may have never thought you'd hear yourself say:

Talk to strangers. This is a time when moving out of your own neighborhood and meeting people with diverse backgrounds can help you gain perspective of where you've come from – while setting you in new directions.

Eat quickly. Sitting down for pancakes or an egg and toast may be unrealistic if you schedule morning classes. Although you were told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, that doesn't mean that it has to be elaborate. A jar of almond butter, a box of whole-grain crackers and a bag of plastic knives could do the trick in minutes.

[Read: 7 High-Protein Breakfast Ideas.]

Go to the bars. There's nothing better than a portable snack to help pick you up between classes. Grab an energy bar that's well balanced, which means it has a combination of protein, carbs and healthy fat. Avoid bars that are more likely candy, but disguised to look healthier.

Take a hike. Sitting in a classroom all day is not a recipe for concentration. If you're able to schedule breaks between your classes, try to get out and walk. Even better, visit the fitness facility on campus so that you can stay active and in good shape throughout any season.

[Read: No Gym Necessary: 4 Anywhere-Exercises.]

Go clubbing. Join social groups and clubs to explore your personal interests. The school newspaper could help you stay on top of what's happening on campus and may even get you a pass to score some unique interviews. If you've ever wanted to try fencing, acting or bowling, this is your chance to catch a break from a hectic work schedule and let off some steam.

Please text more often. When at meal time, when walking, when relaxing, whenever – just text home. Assume that you're being thought of often and that any communication from you would be welcomed. Taking time from studying to text may not be the best idea, but we are willing to compromise on this activity.

[Read: How to Be Healthy in College.]

Although I didn't realize it at the time, perhaps the most important advice I ever got was found inside a fortune cookie that I cracked open when I was about 10 years old. The narrow piece of paper read, "Be yourself – you're the only one who can be." When you go to college, you're like an artist holding a blank canvas; you can paint whatever picture of yourself you'd like to display. Being true to yourself is a fortune that will always bring wealth of body and mind ... at any age.

Full disclosure: On a personal note, this story was written right before dropping off my youngest son at college. It was richly supported by pride and ... tissues!

[Read: Nutrition Tips for College Students.]

Hungry for more? Write to eatandrun@usnews.com with your questions, concerns and feedback.

Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, has been owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC, for more than three decades and she is the author of Read It Before You Eat It. As a renowned motivational speaker, author, media personality, and award-winning dietitian, Taub-Dix has found a way to communicate how to make sense of science. Her website is BetterThanDieting.com.