Mental health tips for parents of kids heading to college

Aug 31, 2022, 10:37 AM

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.

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Mental health tips for parents of kids heading to college