Helicopter Parents. Oh, Please.

When I first read this article about colleges providing extensive orientation for parents of incoming freshmen, my reaction was, “Are you kidding me??!!”  It’s no wonder the cost of college has gone up so much.  Here’s a taste:

But these are not simple “meet the dean” receptions held the day before school starts. These are elaborate two- and three-day events, often held on midsummer weekdays, requiring parents to take time off from work and pay $70 or $80 in addition to lodging, food and travel expenses. They are packed with workshops, tours and speeches on subjects ranging from letting go to campus safety. Reed College in Portland, Ore., even invites parents to read “The Odyssey” and attend a lecture and discussion similar to what their children will experience in a freshman humanities course.

First of all, I plodded through The Odyssey as a college freshman, and I have no intention of reading it again.  Not even to empathize with my kids.

But more to the point, “letting go”??  Is it really the responsibility of the college or university to counsel parents on how to deal with letting go?  I guess in this age of parents calling up their child’s professor or dean to argue grades or make excuses for why their kid keeps skipping class, schools are doing their best to nip this “hovering” in the bud.  This seems a little over the top to me, though.  I could see maybe an hour-long discussion of health and safety issues along with typical homesick behaviors to expect.  Multiple days of this is just enabling.

According to the article, “lots of parents think the orientations are the greatest thing since “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”  I don’t know about you, but those books scared the crap out of me.  They were great for 2 things: reminding me of every possible thing that could go wrong with my child and reinforcing the fact that apparently every parenting decision I ever made was wrong.  I finally gave up on that series of books in favor of child-rearing guides more in line with my own parenting instincts.

And that’s really the point.  Rather than handing over every last cent I have after paying tuition and fees so that I can get one expert’s opinion on what my child will experience and how I can deal with it, I hope to trust my instincts.  I’ve been anticipating this since the start of high school.  I still have 2 years to go before my first child leaves the nest (see my earlier post here.), so you can be sure I’ll be doing my own reading and asking about what to expect.  And then, I’ll go with my gut.



Filed under education, family

3 responses to “Helicopter Parents. Oh, Please.

  1. As a college professor, I’ve dealt with these parents (and as a mom with a 3-year-old, I’m struggling to not become one) and orientation or not, we can still pretty much predict which parents will call and beg me for information on their kids (which I won’t, and legally can’t, give out) and which parents will craft and maintain their own lines of communication with their now-adult children. The differences are striking.

    • Thanks for reading! So it sounds as though these parent orientations are just hand-holding sessions which don’t discourage the hovering in many parents anyway. I hope that, through homeschooling my 2 kids, I will have established a strong enough connection to get us through the empty-nest anxiety. Of course, I’ll still worry myself silly!

  2. Annie

    I’m all for parents not calling anymore to harass teachers about their grades or make excuses for their kid!!

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