Stories about obsessive parents make great headlines—like when a University of Cincinnati student obtained a stalking order against her parents because they installed monitoring software on her computer and cell phone.
Crazy, right? You’d never do that.
But would you edit (or rewrite) your teen’s admission essay? Require them to text or call daily? Schedule their classes? Call their professor to negotiate a better grade on the last midterm?
If these sound like reasonable activities to you, then you may be a helicopter parent—the kind that hovers over every aspect of their child’s life. But how do you know when you’ve crossed the (often fuzzy) line from involved parent to active hoverer? Get some perspective on your relationship with your teen by talking to other parents—neighbors and friends are great, but so are online bulletin boards (like the Parents Forum at College Confidential), where you can get anonymous feedback from people going through the same high-school-to-college transition.
If you’ve spotted some helicopter tendencies in your life, it’s time to take action to change them. Start by looking at your motivation for hovering…do any of these sound familiar?
Old habits die hard.
You’ve done their laundry since they were born, it’s just what you do. Perhaps you never even showed them how to work the machines. What about doing the laundry together one week to show them the ropes, then sending them back to school with a brand new jug of detergent?
I only want them to succeed.
It helps to keep things in perspective: failure in a task or class doesn’t mean failure for life, or that you’ve failed as a parent. Setbacks can be great learning moments.
I pay the bills, I make the rules.
To some extent this is true. You have the right to have expectations, but discuss them with your teen and set some ground rules. Identify deal breakers as far as behavior goes and give leeway in other areas.
I don’t want to lose touch.
Your relationship is changing—and change can be frightening—but clinging too hard or intruding too much into their new life isn’t the answer. Talk with your teen about how (and how often) you’ll communicate once they leave home, and let them know you’re always available to give advice.