Mary “Pinky” McArthur was a helicopter parent long before the term was ever invented. In 1899, Pinky moved to New York when her son (General Douglas MacArthur) enrolled at West Point. Some say she even kept tabs on his daily activities with the aid of binoculars.
Hopefully your mom isn’t planning to move to campus with you, but there are many less extreme habits of helicopter parents that can interfere with your life. If you’ve spotted your parents hovering over your college search and worry about how the future will play out, here’s some advice.
Stop Fueling the Helicopter
It might be easy to let mom fill out the applications and have dad ask questions on the tour, but you’re only encouraging their bad habits. Next time mom or dad steps in to do something for you, remind them that they’ve taught you a lot over the years and now it’s time for you to put that knowledge into action by making your own choices.
If your parents are hard-core hoverers, now’s the time to set some ground rules. For example, tell them that you don’t want surprise visitors; instead, make plans in advance for them to come to campus on a specific weekend.
To get input from fellow students about how to deal with your parents, post a question over at College Confidential. You might even try the Parents Forum to get a parent’s perspective on your situation.
Diagnose Their Motives
When you’re about to lose your temper with your parents’ hovering, step back and remember that they have your best interests at heart. Look at it from their perspective…
• Old habits die hard. It’s natural for mom and dad to have trouble letting go. Cut them some slack when it comes to the little stuff (everyone loves care packages, after all), but hold your ground on bigger issues (e.g., scheduling classes and choosing an internship).
• They don’t want to fail. Your parents have helped you grow and learn for 18 years, give or take, and they may see the college admissions process as a final grade on their success as a parent. Is that a bit extreme? Yes. But it may be how they feel, even on a subconscious level.
• Vicarious living at its finest. All parents want their children to have a better life than they did, but some push their children to make up for their own failures or missed opportunities. Remind them that your future is your own.
• Money talks. With college costs soaring, your parents will want to make sure they’re getting their money’s worth. Tell them you’re grateful for their help, but that paying the bill doesn’t mean they get to make all the decisions.
Think of the Future
If you get cold feet about having a frank discussion with your hovering parents, think about the possibility of mom and dad going with you to a job interview or calling your boss to demand an explanation for why you didn’t get a raise this year. Sound scary? It really does happen! If you don’t ground that helicopter now, it may well follow you for the rest of your life.