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.