To Parents Sending Their Child With a Chronic Illness to College

Dear Parents,

You’ve already taken the first step by deciding to let your child go off to college. While they’re running around the store picking out decor for their dorm, you’re trying to swallow the bile in your throat at the thought of them actually leaving. I understand this is difficult, but after two years in college, I can promise you one thing: It’s going to be OK. 

Though letting go of your teenager is difficult, there is so much for them to gain by leaving. They will learn independence in their illness. When you’re at school, there is no one to pick up your medicines for you or remind you to take them. There’s no one to make sure you’re awake, no one to tell you to eat and no one to remind you of the daily things your parents did for you.

Living on their own for the first time will teach them to become independent in their own care. They will learn to assess their own health every day. Your child will learn to hydrate, to eat, to time their medicines and to balance a schedule. They will be so independent by the end of their first semester. They’ll come home for winter break, and you will no longer have to baby them. 

By going to college, your kid will learn to be sick on their own — maybe for the first time. They are bound to either have a flare or catch a cold, and you will no longer be there for them. They will have to find out how to get to urgent care on their own and most likely pick up their own prescriptions. Your child will have to learn when it’s time to stay in bed and when they’ll just have to suck it up and drag themselves to class while sick. Being sick on their own for the first time will scare them, but it will show them how strong they are.

Another way you are helping your child by letting them go to college is that you are teaching them how to ask for help instead of just expecting it. Hopefully, and most likely from my experience, your college freshman will find a group of friends who are even better than the ones they may have had in high school. Although your student can handle their illness themselves, they are going to have times when they need help. Leaning on their friends for a little emotional support or physical support helps them find true relationships that will last a lifetime. It will also help them see that there are others out there who care about them — not just their parents. 

College is difficult. It is a germ infested, stressful and strange environment that only happens once in a lifetime for people. It’s going to be even more difficult for your chronically ill son or daughter, but I can assure you that it will teach them valuable life skills they never could have learned if they had stayed home.

Give your child a chance. They might surprise you. 


The Chronically Ill Sophomore in College

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