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Handling Helicopter Parents - Those Who Hover
By The College Advisor

Many commuter students and even some who live on campus find that their parents are not willing to let them grow up. Some parents even show up on campus when their students are meeting with an academic advisor. The student is not allowed to talk and the parents make all the decisions. This behavior is more likely to happen with female students, but even some male students are afflicted with these over-controlling parents. This behavior can come from many potential sources.

Fear: Our society sends out a lot of messages about how dangerous life is - especially after 9/11. Reports of drug or alcohol abuse, rape and murder get a lot of media coverage when they are associated college life. The student needs to take the time to show the parents what the campus is doing to safeguard against these issues. This may be enough to help the parents relinquish some control. Guardian parents are the most risk-averse and most likely to have these kinds of fears.

Concern: Concern is a milder form of fear. Idealist parents and some Guardian parents may show this low-grade discomfort. Issues of concern may also be associated with culture or socio-economic class. Students who are the first in their family to attend college or whose parents are not native-born often have to spend time educating their parents about the new situation. The parents may never understand completely, but if their concerns are taken seriously and responded to, they are more likely to relax their hovering behavior.

Control: The least likely of all parents to want control are the Artisans and Idealists. But Guardian parents want the student to fit with the world they understand, and Rational parents want to ensure that the student becomes competent. Often these parents see the student as an extension of themselves, and don't want to be shamed. This is the most difficult of situations for students. Often the academic counselor may refer the student to psychological counseling so the student can get support. Control issues cannot be solved quickly or easily.

Students can try handling Helicopter parents on their own, but if the situation isn't resolved, they need to determine what is motivating their parents, and then speak to an academic counselor or psychological counselor about the issue. Colleges have many resources to help the student, but they won't be brought into play if the student doesn't inform someone about the problem.


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