When Helping Turns to Hindering

November 17th, 2006 by admin

For parents, releasing children off into the ‘wild’ (also known as college) can be a really difficult time. You can no longer tell them when to do their homework, you have no control over their curfew, and you can’t make sure they are eating their vegetables. Whether it’s your firstborn or the last of several children to escape the shelter of your wing, parents commonly suffer from empty nest syndrome. However, the most recently discussed problem known as ‘helicopter parenting,’ a term coined by colleges across the nation involves parents who don’t make an effort to loosen the leash.

The issue: What is a helicopter parent?
A helicopter parent is one who pays extremely close attention to their child or children, particularly at educational institutions. Helicopter parenting isn’t just a problem for parents it has negatively affected college admissions staff, professors, potential employers and, most importantly, the children you are trying to help.

The signs and symptoms: Are you hovering too close?
Some of the ‘helpful’ assistance you’re providing your children may actually be hindering them in the long run. If you answer yes to any of the following questions, it is possible that you are hovering too close.

  • Do you communicate with your child more than once each day?
  • Do you help your son or daughter resolve roommate issues by contacting the roommate’s parents?
  • Do you help your child write admissions or scholarship essays, cover letters, resumes, or papers for class?
  • Do you call in favors to friends and colleagues to help your son or daughter find an internship or career?
  • Do you give your child extra money when he or she didn’t budget funds?
  • Do you speak with potential employers on your child’s behalf?
  • Have you ever resolved a grade dispute for your child by contacting the college or a specific professor?
  • Have you ever contacted an employer to find out why your son or daughter didn’t get a job?

Helping your child succeed is a natural part of being a parent. Of course you want the best for your child. However, it is crucial for you to know your boundaries.

The treatment: Teach your children how to help themselves
According to the Newsweek article Parenting: How to Let Your Kids Go on MSNBC.com, Letting go is the final frontier for boomer parents, who’ve made child rearing a major focus of their adult lives. College is a time when children should blossom into intelligent and for the most part independent adults. College freshman face many new challenges, and it’s important to be supportive without overstepping your boundaries. Your children may be moving far away from home, surrounded by new people and unfamiliar territory, and the best thing you can do is give them advice while letting them grow and learn to make smart decisions on their own.

Now Put Yourself to the Test
There is a fine line between helping and hindering your children. Are you hovering too close? Or are you successfully weaning your children toward independence? Take Newsweek’s quiz Are You a Helicopter Parent? to find out where you stand and get helpful advice.

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