Helicopter Parents: Following Kids to College

by on February 19th, 2015
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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.

And what about the parents themselves? Sociology professor Dr. Margaret Nelson says this parenting style, “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.

So if you find yourself hovering, not sure where to draw the line, some of these tips may help you back off:

1. 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.

2. Put them in charge of their own decisions. 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.

3. 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.

Have parents’ weekend 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.

5. 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.

What parents haven’t had situations where giving up control was an issue? With our maturity and life experience, we think we know what’s best for our kids. And we take on the role of protecting our kids for so long, it becomes automatic. Even though it’s not easy to let go of old familiar roles, we’ve all got to do it eventually. And is there any better time than now?

© Her Mentor Center, 2011

Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. and Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. are family relationship experts with a 4-step model for change. Whether you’re coping with stress, acting out teens, aging parents, boomerang kids or difficult daughters-in-law, we have solutions. Discover practical tips about how to deal with parents growing older and children growing up. Log on to our blog, http://www.NourishingRelationships.blogspot.com and sign up for our free newsletter, Stepping Stones and ebook, Courage and Lessons Learned. Visit our website, http://www.HerMentorCenter.com to buy our ebook, Taking Control of Stress in a Financial Storm.

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