Helicopter parents are the moms and dads that hover, swoop in and solve every problem for their child. They intervene when it’s not appropriate to do so. If you’re sending your teen off to college, now is the time to back off. Helicopter parenting has become such a phenomenon that many colleges and universities are adding that very session topic to their freshman parent orientation programming.
You’ve spent your entire lives teaching, guiding, and protecting, but what your child needs now is to learn to become an autonomous, independent thinker, who does for himself, and takes responsibility for the choices he makes. He needs the space to learn to be a young adult, to grow, and even to make mistakes. He needs the space to decide on a major, to keep up with his own class schedule and assignments, his bank accounts and budgets, sleep schedules and eating patterns, and his new social world. And even though technology has erased many lines, what with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the many apps that are available to keep up with what’s going on, you have to learn to respect important boundaries, even if you get anxious about what is going on. It’s reasonable to check in from time to time, but moderation is the key.
More and more university students are seeking help from their school’s counseling centers, from their advisors, and from trusted professors. Parental meddling results in consequences that are completely unintentional but also very damaging. College students are experiencing more anxiety, depression, and dissatisfaction than ever before and part of the reason is the inadvertent message that helicopter parents have been saying to them: that they can’t be trusted to take responsibility and govern their own lives. According to a study in the Journal of Child and Family Studies, led by an associate professor of psychology at the University of Mary Washington, through their words and their actions, parents are sending unintentional messages to their college-aged children that they are not competent. The effect of this is exactly the opposite of their good intentions, but this is the result, none-the-less.
Learn all you need to about the college or university your child is attending. You’ll probably find that it is well set up to attend to you child's many needs. From personal advisors, career planning departments, financial aid services, resident life, social life, dining services, and more, there are many people and programs in place that do nothing but focus on the well-being of your teen. They just need to ask.
Go to freshman orientation, ask questions that will alleviate some of your concerns, and then trust and let go. For the sake of your young adult, resist the urge to be a helicopter parent. Be a lighthouse instead, standing strong, being available for navigation purposes, firmly planted on the shores at home.