As a generation, Millennials face some tough issues: a college degree is now the equivalent of a high school degree. This increases pressure upon students to go to school beyond high school. In addition to those challenges, colleges across the country are facing a tough challenge of their own, hovering parents. In answer to this challenge schools are holding orientations for parents while their child is signing up for classes and other necessary objectives. In addition to orientation, some schools offer parent-only workshops on everything from finances to dorm life. Colleges are teaching parents the art of letting go.
The definition of a helicopter parent is a broad term. The meaning ranges from normal parents who check their child’s Facebook once a day, a parent who calls their children twice a day, and the parent who does his or her child’s laundry when are home from college. Then you have the extreme helicopter parent. This type of parent has the college faculty shivering with apprehension. I’m talking about the Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche parent who does everything for their offspring. The Comanche offspring have no awareness of their own identity separate from their parents. A helicopter parent is the type of parent who constantly questions their children’s decisions, who may be inappropriately intrusive and disrespectful of their children’s identities. The difference between a normal parent and a helicopter parent lies somewhere in between helping young adults and taking over their decisions.
So what should an average all American college student do about a mildly intrusive helicopter parent? The first step is to be kind and compassionate toward his or her parents. Most parents have a difficult time when their child goes off to college. Children consume 95% of parents’ thoughts and interactions for eighteen years. It’s only natural for them to “freak out“ a little and call several times a day. After all, their children have ventured forth into the big scary world without them. Over time parents will communicate less as they begin to feel more secure about their children being able to handle themselves appropriately in the world.
The second step is to learn to negotiate small conflicts without the aid of parents. Some parents find themselves unable to let go and become overbearing and intrusive in their child’s life because their child’s behavior encourages them to do so. If a friend is constantly picking up the phone to call a parent over every little issue, then there is a bigger problem here than a helicopter parent. As funny as it may seem, this type of scenario is happening. Many campus officials say they are seeing a growing number of freshmen lacking basic communication skills for solving their own problems.
Learn how to set up personal boundaries. This third step enables adult children to maintain and promote healthy relationships with everyone they come into contact with, while keeping their beliefs, desires, needs, and intuitions intact. It can be difficult to define personal boundaries with family and just as difficult to maintain them. Setting boundaries and enforcing them takes practice and patience. In the end, it will lead children and their helicopter parents into a healthier relationship, where the needs and feelings of the parent and child matter. College faculty, parent liaisons, and college therapists are highly qualified to help students establish boundaries and time management skills. They are fully educated on a student’s rights under The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA.
The forth step is vital for independence: be responsible. College is a perfect time to learn how to manage finances, ensuring independence and financial freedom. Some parents are more than happy to buy textbooks, plan your careers, and pay credit-card bills. However, a responsible college student will take on a part time job during the summer months or participate in a work study program while in college. This contributes to the student’s education and financial freedom. This prepares them to be better equipped to handle life beyond college.
Parents need to be reminded they are no longer being a parent of a child, but they are now a parent of an adult. In the end, it is all about how students choose to look at themselves. Up until now they have been reflecting their parents’ biggest hopes and desires. However, along the way they may have sacrificed a very important factor, their own identity. Millennials cannot learn about themselves and discover new things when their parents are circling overhead waiting to swoop down and land at a moment’s notice. College is a perfect time to shape a person’s own sense of identity. It’s time for parents to let go a little and allow their children to shape their own future.
This article was written by Laurell Morse, a writer for dusk magazine.