It is, of course, inevitable that your college student will get sick while she is at school. It may happen early in her college career, or it may not happen for a while. She may be very ill, or more likely, just miserable with a cold or virus circulating through the residence hall. For many students, that first illness often occurs a few weeks into the first semester – the seasons may begin to change, students may not be getting as much sleep as usual, may not be eating as well as usual, and they have all been in closer living contact sharing their germs.
Even if it is simply the common cold, that first illness away from home is often a difficult time for students. This may be the first time that they will need to care for themselves. This may be a difficult time for you, as parent, as well. You’d like to be there to provide the medication, the chicken soup, or maybe just the TLC. However, there’s not much that you can do if your student is miles away at school, and this is an important life-learning experience anyway. You may feel helpless and frustrated that you can’t be there.
While you probably can’t be there when your student gets sick, you can anticipate that it will happen eventually. One thing that you can do is to create a “comfort pack” and send it to school with your student. Find an interesting container or box and fill it with some things that might be helpful and/or meaningful when your student gets sick. This isn’t meant to be a general first aid kit, but rather something special to help with that first illness. Wrap the box carefully and send it to school with your student – with strict orders not to open the box until needed.
If you decide to create a “comfort pack”, use your imagination about what to include. There may be special remedies unique to your family that will be meaningful to your student. Here are a few general things to consider including in your pack:
- Kleenex – perhaps some that are especially soft or colorful
- Cold, flu, or cough medicine
- Throat lozenges and/or cough drops
- Specialty tea or cocoa
- A special mug
- Instant chicken soup or bullion
- A get well card – perhaps signed by the whole family
- Magazine or comic book
- Deck of cards
- Fun coloring book, puzzle book, crayons, comic book – yes, kiddie stuff!
- Comfy pajamas or dorm pants
- Small stuffed animal
Only you know what might be particularly comforting to your student. Use your imagination. Be creative. It’s definitely not going to be the same as being there, but opening the pack will remind your student that you care, will provide at least a bit of comfort, and will help your student get through a difficult time.