Helicopter Parents on the College Campus: Strategies to Help Ease Transition Pains

I was speaking with a College Admissions Director last week. He was telling me story after story about the flood of calls from parents about everything from roommate disputes to asking for vacation time off to wanting the telephone numbers of the professors of their adult children who are getting ready to head off to college for the first time.

Our young adults are smart. They’re worldly. They are persistent. Yet for some reason, we are sending them the message that we don’t trust them to make smart decisions on their own, and this is a shame. As I heard this story, I had to look back at my own helicopter parenting…the number of times I pick up the phone each day to hear that one of my college-age kids (and I have 3 of them) needs something (something they can certainly figure out on their own.) I am here to say that while I consider myself stronger than most, I have frequently fallen into the trap of reacting rather than supporting my kids to be independent.

So, while this list below may make you chuckle many of these things are actually occurring on college campuses throughout the United States. My request is that if you are a parent and if any of these apply to you that you stop it. And…I will join you in taking this list on!

7 Tips for Helicopter Parents to help Ease the Transition from Home to College

1) Become an outside advisor to your child to help him or her get questions answered about how to navigate college life. Sit down before your child leaves for college and get all questions answered.

2) Support your adult child by helping them pull together their belongings for college (the operative word here is support…your child should play an active role in packing for college and making decisions about what to take and what to leave at home

3) Resist the urge to contact your child’s school, university or professor (this can actually hurt his or her chances of getting an internship or in passing a class.)

4) Let your adult child be the one to speak with the professor about disputes over grades, class attendance or disputes with other students.. This will help him or her develop the independence and confidence needed to navigate the business world.

5) Establish ground rules for telephone calls. A good rule of thumb is a “One phone call per week” unless there is a dire emergency (illness, an accident or being in serious danger are certainly times when your child needs you…a dispute with a roommate is not an opportunity for you to practice your helicopter parenting!)

6) Discuss finances with your child. Establishing a budget upfront is a critical step in helping your adult child learn financial independence. Once the money for the month runs out, be very careful about continuing to put more and more money in the bank account. This action sends the message to your college-age child that you will always be there to bail them out, even when it’s their full responsibility.

7) Encourage your child to make use of the college or university services BEFORE calling you. There is usually an answer out there, and if they continue to call you with an S.O.S., they will never learn how to live as an adult in an adult world.

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  • John Agno

    As parents, boomers face their final frontier: how to stand aside as their children become independent adults. Where's the line between caring and coddling?

    Letting go. Are there two more painful words in the boomer-parent lexicon? One minute, there's an adorable, helpless bundle in your arms. Then, 18 years go by in a flash, filled with Mommy and Me classes, Gymboree, Little League, ballet, drama club, summer camp, traveling soccer teams, piano lessons, science competitions, SAT prep classes and college visits. The next thing you know, it's graduation.

    Most boomers don't want to be "helicopter parents," hovering so long that their offspring never get a chance to grow up. But with cell phones and email available 24/7, the temptation to check in is huge. Some boomer parents hang on, propelled by love and insecurity about how the world will treat their children.

    Source: www.SoBabyBoomer.com