Academic: Parents, Stop “Hovering” Over College Kids

Today, the perception that high school graduation being the first big step toward full-fledged adulthood and independence is changing, as both parents and many institutions of higher education relate to students in a way that essentially prolongs childhood among students, writes Laurie L. Hazard at the Washington Post.

Instead of fostering to a “youthful reliance” among students and extending parental control, campuses and families should work together to put undergrads back on the young-adult track, proposes Hazard.

“It’s the best way to prepare them to become happy and successful young adults.”

Laurie L. Hazard is a psychology professor and a scholar of first-year-student transitions at Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island, where she serves as director of the university’s Academic Center for Excellence.

This generation of parents has readily accepted that they have earned the Helicopter Parent label, writes Hazard. Some are proud of the label, despite warnings that their “hovering” could potentially undermine their child’s success and inhibit their development into an adult — such as negotiating conflicts, advocating for themselves, and dealing with disappointment.

Most colleges are unwilling to fight with  parent desires, and instead have created programs to meet their demands.

According to the National Survey of College and University Parent Programs:

In 1999, some 35 percent of institutions offered parent orientations. In 2007, over 95 percent conducted them.

Many universities now create parent advisory boards, parent empowerment councils, and even entire departments dedicated to parent involvement in their child’s higher education experience.

But to avoid creating a campus climate of college as an extension of high school, campuses should be clearer in their messaging to parents, and some tough love is definitely overdue, writes Hazard.

“Colleges and universities should help departments establish guidelines for how they are going to work with parents. Often, if parents are calling offices for information, it is likely an indication that there is a communication breakdown between the parent and student. Utilize the phone call as an opportunity to support the parent and student to reopen lines of communication with each other.”

The Second Annual Survey on College Parent Expectations indicated that 72.5 percent of parents communicate with their college students at least 2 or 3 times per week. If parents wish to foster independence in their child, this number of weekly contacts may be excessive:

Parents need to ask themselves whether they are calling to simply touch base or keep tabs on their students. Parents and students should determine a communication plan that is comfortable for both parties, writes Hazard.

Particularly during the first semester, it is inevitable that students will contact their parents for advice and support. Parents should familiarize themselves with the inner working of their students’ institutions. As a result, parents will be able to coach and counsel their children through the system as opposed to diving in and tackling administrative issues themselves.

Sometimes, the best way to help your college student grow and succeed is to get out of the way and let them and the experts do their jobs together, writes Hazard.

Matthew Tabor

Matthew Tabor

Matthew is a prolific, independent voice in the national education debate. He is a tireless advocate for high academic standards from pre-K through graduate school, fiscal sense and personal responsibility. He values parents’ and families’ rights and believes in accountability for teachers, administrators, politicians and all taxpayer-funded education entities. With a unique background that includes work in higher education, executive recruiting, professional sport and government, Matthew has consulted on new media and communication strategies for a broad range of clients. He writes the blog “Education for the Aughts” at www.matthewktabor.com , has contributed to National Journal’s ‘Expert’ blog for Education , and interacts with the education community on Twitter and Google+.