Mental health tips for parents of kids heading to college

Aug 31, 2022, 10:37 AM | Updated: May 15, 2023, 1:59 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Dropping off a college freshman is a bittersweet moment. Your child’s world is about to change and so is yours, and that can be hard to take in for some of us.

For Healthy Mind Matters, an expert from the Huntsman Mental Health Institute offers some tips on how to survive this next phase of parenthood.

It’s a day Lisa Lamb has dreaded and embraced.

“I spent most of the morning crying, but I’ve pulled it together now.”

She’s dropping her daughter, Emma, off at the University of Utah.

“I’m moving her into her dorm,” Lamb said. “Freshman year. First time away from home.”

The moment happens in a flash. Lamb worries she overlooked something important.

“The concerns are always did you teach them enough? Are they prepared? And will they make good decisions?”

Dr. Torrence Wimbish is with the Huntsman Mental Health Institute and works closely with students at the University of Utah.

“Your role will change with your child, and your student will change,” he said.

He suggests parents do these three things when their child starts college.

First, let them struggle. Don’t jump in to solve every crisis.

“They’re going to fail at something and make mistakes and that’s OK,” Wimbish said.

Second, limit daily communication – this includes texts.

“Resist the urge to hover,” Wimbish said. “That’s a tough one for a lot of parents because you want to call every day and check up on them.”

Lamb agreed.

“It’s time to back away, which is the hardest thing a mother is asked to do, in my opinion,” she said.

Third, allow yourself time to be sad. Each day you’ll feel a different emotion. But over time, it gets easier.

“Focus on your life. Focus on a work project, whatever that might be. Focus on relationships, partnerships, marriages,” Wimbish said.

Lamb said she’s sad to leave her daughter behind, but she’s ready to let go.

“You raise them for this moment to be on their own and succeed and find their own path, but she’s very independent,” Lamb said. “She should be fantastic!”

Wimbish said it’s important to let kids know that you are there for them.

And if they need extra support, check with their schools and find out what resources are available on campus.

KSL 5 TV Live

Healthy Mind Matters

Lauren Hess has struggled with depression since she was a teen. Seasonal Affective Disorder affects...

Emma Benson

‘You can actually find joy again’: Why Utahns are at higher risk for seasonal affective disorder, how to cope

Seasonal affective disorder affects about 10% of Utahns, according to a Huntsman Mental Health Institute doctor.

26 days ago


Tamara Vaifanua

Free SAFE2FEEL conference teaches coping, confidence-building skills

Mental health experts say there’s an epidemic of loneliness. 

1 month ago

(Laura Warburton)...

Emma Benson

‘Because of Hannah’: Utah mom who lost daughter to suicide provides resources for others

Laura Warburton remembers her daughter, Hannah, as a warrior.

3 months ago

SafeUT app...

Logan Stefanich, 

SafeUT app sees ‘record-breaking’ use in 2023

The SafeUT app saw "record-breaking" utilization during 2023, program leaders and partners announced Tuesday.

4 months ago

Kelsey (left) and Wendy Fayle (right) holding up a NAMI sign. (Courtesy: Wendy Fayle)...

Candice Madsen, KSL TV

NAMI Utah offers free classes for parents and adolescents dealing with mental illness

NAMI is offering free classes for both parents and adolescents that are dealing with mental illness.

4 months ago

YCC text messages...

Alex Cabrero

YCC Family Crisis Center in Ogden now accepting text messages

It is certainly not the easiest job out there. Amber Paaso will be the first to tell you she's burned out of doing it in the past. 

4 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Mental health tips for parents of kids heading to college