Helicopter Parents Following Kids to College

Precisely who are these Helicopter Parents? They’re the ones who pay such close attention to their children’s experiences and problems that it’s smothering. And when these over-protecting parents are fearful or worried and restrictive, their kids often become too dependent and doubt themselves. Over time, they don’t have the life skills to assess risks, make decisions and take care of themselves.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 20: A police helicopter flies over the Sydney Harbour Bridge as HRH Prince William takes a jet boat ride on Sydney Harbour on the second day of his unofficial visit to Australia on January 20, 2010 in Sydney, Australia. HRH undertook numerous engagements during his 3 day Official visit to New Zealand, before arriving for a further 3 days in Australia yesterday. This is the second visit by the second-in-line to the throne, having been here at the age of 9 months with his parents in 1983. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

And what about the parents, themselves? This Washington Post article, written by sociology professor Dr. Margaret Nelson, is called Helicopter Moms Heading for a Crash. She says this parenting style, which she calls “highly personalized care,” is extremely time consuming and emotionally demanding, sometimes at the expense of the rest of a busy mom’s life.

Such over-parenting can produce children who experience a delayed adolescence and, when the time comes, are not ready to leave home. This can be particularly apparent during the transition from home to college life. Some professors and administrators describe parents’ attempts to smooth out obstacles, to the extent that they play an active part in choice of college, roommate and classes.

You may want to look around CollegeConfidential.com, a site that offers all kinds of information and support related to college. The forums for parents contain extensive discussions about the pros and cons of parental involvement in this process.

Of course, we’ve all had situations where giving up control was an issue, and there can be a multitude of reasons – because protecting our kids becomes automatic over time, we think we know what’s best for them, it’s not easy to let go of old familiar roles. So if you find yourself hovering, not sure where to draw the line, some of these tips may help you back off:

Being too directive fosters reliance. You may want to be involved with their class assignments, extra curricular activities or job searches. But this is the time when developing decision-making skills is paramount to a strong sense of self.

As they make more of their own decisions, let them deal with the consequences. Be supportive as they negotiate roommate disputes and dating dilemmas. Learning how to cooperate, compromise and accept disappointment are all part of the college experience.

Technology makes it too easy to stay connected. If it feels satisfying to both of you, establish a middle ground. Let them know that you’re there if they really need you but don’t enable their dependency.

Be sure that parents’ weekend is on your agenda.
During these activities, you’ll be able to commiserate with other parents who understand how you’re feeling. And meeting with the teachers and administrators is the best way to find out what’s going on.

Discover what you feel passionate about. Follow your dream of changing jobs, going to school or volunteering. Join a hiking group or exercise class. Take up bridge or yoga. Now is the time to put you front and center for a change.

There are always two sides to every story. Here’s an article from the new NBC website, FamilyGoesStrong.com, that speaks to the need for greater family support in tough economic times. So many adult children have college loans to repay or can’t get a job and, according to recent statistics, more of them are moving home than leaving.

Apparently the 20s are the new adolescence and adult children are marrying later. The Today Show interviewed mom, Geri Brin, and her 31 year old son, Colby. She wants to play cupid and is taking a more active role in partner selection – and it’s OK with him. She has added a dating component to her website, FabOverFifty. Although some may see that as meddling, Geri says she’s just casting a wider net.

We’ve had a lot of fun this week, exploring separation and individuation within the family. Now it’s your turn. Let us hear your thoughts, from helicopter parenting to free range kids and beyond – we know you’re out there!

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