28 Jan

Wanted: More “Helicopter Parents” for College Students

You’ve probably heard stories of college “helicopter parents”-those moms and dads who “hover” around and just can’t seem to keep out of their children’s business. Maybe you’ve heard of them calling the Dean to complain about their student’s roommate, or emailing professors insisting that they re-grade midterms.

While these examples are extreme cases, colleges are now saying that they feel a certain amount of parental “hovering” is a good thing.

In fact, you may be surprised to know many students feel that their parents aren’t involved enough. A 2007 survey just released by UCLA showed that almost 25% of students wish their parents were more active in helping them choose which classes to take and which activities to pursue in college-especially if they’re first generation college students.

College is your child’s first big step into adulthood-for most students it is where they experience their first sense of true autonomy-but all that new responsibility can be overwhelming. Few students are ready to be completely on their own at only 17 or 18.

It can be hard to strike a balance between giving your son or daughter independence and still providing support where it’s needed. I suggest a very simple solution: Know what’s going on, and offer your help when it’s appropriate. There are times when you should help with your student’s decision-making and times where it’s fitting to merely be a good listener. So you probably don’t want to actually become a “helicopter parent,” but maybe instead you can serve as a fairy godmother or godfather for your student – only appearing when summoned.

Know when finals week starts, when midterms are coming, and if there are any important events coming up on campus. Assist your student in choosing activities to get involved with outside the classroom (which will greatly increase his or her chances of adjusting to college life easier.)

When you drop your student off at school, offer to be on call for questions about how to run the washing machine or what to do if they have trouble with a class. Be available as a sounding board for roommate problems (but let them handle the problems on their own), and when the end of quarter or semester nears, offer to help them choose their class schedule for next term.

Your student will guide you as to how much input he or she wants-if they turn down your offer of help, they’re probably comfortable working it out on their own – but they WILL remember later that you offered, and that will make them more apt to turn to you for help when they really need it!

All the best,
Deborah Fox

Photo: helipad sign by Tom S

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