Helicopter Parents Go to College

  • Helicopter Parents Go to College
    By CWK Network Producer

    “I’ve been known for the last few years to call the cell phone the world’s longest umbilical cord.”
    -Richard Mullendore, Ph.D., Professor of College Student Affairs Administration, University of Georgia

    Many high schools, some colleges, and even some employers all have the same complaint today: helicopter parents- parents who “hover” around their child and get involved in almost every detail of their child’s life. The motivation is love, but the result may be a child who never learns independence.

    Sarah, a freshman at the University of Georgia, calls her parents before every decision. “Just because I’m on my own, and I’m only a freshman, so some things are just like, ‘Eeek! I need to talk to someone about it.’”

    She’s not alone. Students admit to calling their parents about everything from money to choosing classes to dealing with roommates.

    Eighteen-year-old Stephen says, “I’ve been in the laundry room and kids have said, ‘Hey, Mom! How do you wash clothes?’” Sarah adds, “I have a car, and I didn’t have one in high school and I have to call them all the time about little things like changing the oil, and when I need to wash it.”

    Dr. Richard Mullendore, a professor of college student affairs administration at the University of Georgia says, “I’ve been known for the last few years to call the cell phone the world’s longest umbilical cord. Many of our students will call their parent, talk to their mother and father four and five times a day. A day!”

    The problem, he says, is when kids face more serious issues: a fight with a roommate or a conflict with a professor they won’t know what to do. Mullendore says, “So today’s students really haven’t learned how to solve conflict, haven’t learned how to confront each other, because their parents have been willing to be in the middle of virtually every decision, and every situation.”

    College advisors say parents who believe they are too involved in their student’s decisions should back off slowly. Explain why you won’t be calling as often— and when you do call—resist giving advice.

    Mullendore says, “Figure out what are the right questions to ask the student. As opposed to ‘I will fix that for you’ ‘I will make that call’ or ‘You need to see so-and-so,’ it’s ‘What do you think you should do?’”

    Thurston says, “At some point, you’re going to be on your own. So you might as well start doing things on your own now, because they are not always going to be there to do everything for you.”

    Finding Independence
    By CWK Network, Inc.

    As your son or daughter begins college, he/she is beginning a new stage in life. While it can be a thrilling and exhilarating time, it can also be full of apprehension and worry. According to experts at the Counseling Center for Human Development at the University of South Florida, some of the challenges your child will face may include:

    • Leaving familiar territory and traditions. Students leave behind family, friends – possibly a boyfriend or girlfriend, familiar places and customs, and familiar rules.
    • Managing new freedoms and responsibilities. Greater freedom requires greater personal responsibility. In the absence of daily parental oversight, students living in an apartment or residence hall must be fully responsible for waking up and getting to class on time, deciding when to study and when to socialize, when and what to eat, when to come home at night and when to go to bed, managing their money, doing their own laundry, and making daily decisions regarding their academic and social behaviors.
    • Changing relationships with parents and family. With greater independence and less frequent contact, the parent-child relationship may evolve into an adult-to-adult, rather than adult-to-child, relationship. This creates both challenges and opportunities for relationship growth for students and their parents. At times, it may be helpful for a student to meet with a counselor to discuss any feelings or events that may interfere with the adjustment process or satisfactory academic performance.
    • More demanding academic requirements and competition. Students may quickly recognize that they are now competing with other students who all were in the upper half of their high school class. Many college students were able to do well in high school without much effort or study and without developing the learning skills (e.g. note-taking, textbook reading, study skills) necessary to succeed in college. Students who are underperforming may find it very helpful to seek individual assistance from professionals in that program.
    • Large classes and less individualized attention. In high school, students seldom have classes larger than 30 or so. During the first year of college, it is not unusual to enroll in introductory (survey) classes that hold up to 300 students or more. It is easy to feel disconnected and unimportant. In order to counter such feelings, students must be able to advocate for themselves. That is, they must ask the professor questions in class or during office hours and they must take advantage of graduate assistants for additional help.
    • Registering for classes and choosing a major. It is also the student’s responsibility to meet with his or her advisor on a regular basis to determine the courses necessary for the next semester in order to remain in “good standing” and to register appropriately for the following semester’s classes. If a student is unsure about a major or career direction, he or she should speak with a career counselor. The majority of students either do not know what major to pursue when they initially enroll in college or they change majors at least once during their college career as they learn more about themselves and their true interests, values and abilities.
    • Time management. In high school, most students spend nearly 35 hours each week in class. In college, they may spend 12 to 17 hours in class. Some days, they may not even have any classes. These periods of non-class time during the day (and evening) can easily be spent in a variety of non-academic activities. Many students are not aware of the general guideline that, for every hour of class time, a student should spend approximately two hours studying and completing assignments and projects. In order to perform well academically and also have time for socializing, exercising and leisure activity, both time management and organizational skills are critical. Seek an on-campus counseling center that may offers workshops and individual counseling, which can address issues of time management, effective decision-making and other personal issues.
    • Feeling overwhelmed by course work (constant studying for quizzes and exams, reading assignments, completing projects and papers) and other responsibilities, is not unusual and can lead to procrastination, which only worsens the problem. Some students reveal perfectionistic tendencies (i.e. unrealistically high self-expectations or perceived parental expectations), which further immobilize their efforts, add to their discouragement and impede their effectiveness. Such issues (along with test and performance anxiety) are frequent in a college student population and may be discussed with counselors.
    • Learning to live in a world of differences (e.g. diversity of ethnicity, religion, philosophical thoughts and beliefs, interests and values) may be one of the most important developments during the college years. Students are confronted with innumerable new ideas in their courses and in their interactions with other students from very different backgrounds. Students, at times, may feel torn between remaining loyal to long-held family beliefs and making decisions based on new information and consistent with their own emerging values and goals.

    What Parents Need to Know

    When parents are too overbearing or overprotective, the consequences can be extreme. Children who aren’t able to do things on their own often grow up to be adults who can’t do things on their own. And learning to do things early makes things much easier in the future. Raising an independent child can help ensure that your child’s transition into adulthood will go a little more smoothly. So how do you raise independent children? Start early, and consider the following tips from experts at India Parenting:

    • Take it one step at a time – Every time you do something for your child, do it slowly and make him/her watch carefully, so that he/she learns how to do it by him/herself. So if it’s anything from tying shoes to changing a car’s oil, do it slowly. Let him/her see how you do it. The next time, let him/her perform the task, while you help him/her.
    • Don’t be in a hurry – Don’t rush in to do everything for your child, no matter how tempting it may be. Your child now may be trying to tie his/her shoelaces. You know that you can tie them much faster for him/her, and you’re getting impatient waiting for your child to get it right. However, don’t interfere and tie them for him/her. Stand by and watch while he/she tries to do it him/herself. If he/she gets it wrong, you can redo it and ask if he/she wants to try again. If not, there’s always tomorrow. Don’t interfere until he/she asks for help or unless he/she gets it wrong – after he/she has completed the task at hand.
    • Watch – Soon you would have passed the stage of helping your child with every little task. You could simply be around monitoring him/her at some level. Don’t brush his teeth for him/her – let him/her brush them, but be close by while he/she does it. The more he/she starts doing things for him/herself, the more confidence he/she will start having in his/her own abilities. This is why you should avoid checking your child at every step. Instead of telling him/her what he/she is doing wrong, tell him/her beforehand how he/she can get it right.
    • Help him/her make lists – One of the best things you can teach your child is to get him/her into the habit of making lists of his/her homework or chores. This will help him/her complete more tasks by him/herself and will consequently turn him/her into a more independent and capable person. You could start out by making the list for him/her, and as he/she completes each task, you could make him/her cross it out from the list.
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    Many high schools, some colleges, and even some employers all have the same complaint today: helicopter parents- parents who “hover” around their child and get involved in almost every detail of their child’s life. The motivation is love, but the result may be a child who never learns independence.

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