Helicopter parents may set college students up for failure

by Meredith Spicher – Features Editor

“Be careful!” “Make sure you wear clean underwear!” “Where did you have it last?” These are classic “mom” sayings that I’m sure we’re all familiar with. Many parents can’t seem to let go of their kids. They still think of their 18-year-old legal adults as bed wetting 4-year-olds. This over-protecting parenting method can have major social and mental effects on students. The impact these parents have on their children could be detrimental to their development when they leave home – if their parents even let them.

Hesston College admissions counselor Kate Mast says that helicopter parents can be a problem even before the students get to college. Many students who have had their parents there at home, making sure they get their homework done, laundry finished, and dishes cleaned are now at college and are at a major disadvantage.

“Students with parents that talk for them usually end up going to the school that their parents choose for them, not the school that they choose,” Mast said.

And it doesn’t stop there.

“Once they get to school, and mom isn’t there to answer for them, well, they may have quite a learning curve in taking responsibility for themselves,” Mast added.

The Washington Post recently reported on a study that found students with overprotective parents have a hard time thinking that they are good enough because their parents aren’t there to tell them that they are. These students depend more on others and lack skills like conscientiousness and responsibly.

Mast agrees.

“Parents that answer for the students are training their students to not know how to answer for themselves,” she said. “It does not help the admissions counselor get a good read for the interest level of the student, and gets in the way of the counselor beginning to build rapport and relationship with the student.”

It is clear to see that helicopter parents affect students even before they get to college. If you have helicopter parents, there are plenty of resources out there that you can show them. Like this article written by Jessica Rosenburg for the Huffington Post.

“The job of a parent isn’t to solely keep their child safe; It’s to teach them to be ready to live in the world,” Rosenburg said. “If we spend all of our time coddling and shielding our kids from the pitfalls that might, maybe, could possibly happen, all we’re doing is making it impossible for them to ever know how to manage on their own.”

So what if you’re the child of a helicopter parent? Hesston College’s Coordinator of Advising & Student Success, Deb Roth has some suggestions.

“I advise students to set up a weekly time to call/Skype/Facetime with parents,” Roth said. “Sometimes when parents know they are going to get some weekly information from their student without prompting, they wait until then to converse about classes, friends, etc.”

Sometimes, Roth said, a short text to your parents is all you need.

“If parents simply do not wait until the arranged time, students might give them a positive message like, ‘Things are going great. I can’t talk now because I am going to class/studying/off to the library. Can’t wait to talk to you on Sunday!’ This works much better than ‘I am too busy and overwhelmed to talk with you now. Call me later.’”

Sometimes, Roth said, the student is to blame for the parent’s overprotectiveness. Making a big deal out of a “mini-crisis” like a failed quiz or conflict just to gain sympathy can backfire, resulting in RDs, coaches and advisors getting involved.

“If students want to be independent, they need to demonstrate that to their parents consistently. When parents realize that their student is doing well ‘on their own,’ they are more likely to give them space to be independent, young adult college students.”

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