When Anxious Parents Can't Stay Away From The Dorms


My mother—like many parents—cried when she left me in my dorm room, a few states away from home. And while that’s a natural reaction, some parents are unable to get past those tears and move on.

As Larry Gordon of the Los Angeles Times writes, many parents of incoming freshman are struggling with the notion of letting their children go, resulting in an upswing of parent-focused orientation sessions designed to help anxious guardians settle into their new roles as their children settle into their new-found independence. “There are parents-only workshops on health insurance, dorm life, financial aid, academics, alcohol abuse and policing,” Gordon writes, but “more important, campus officials say, is explicit advice aimed at easing the pain of separation for the older generation and discouraging intrusive habits that have earned some the title of ‘helicopter parents‘ for their habit of hovering.”

Gordon points out that one of the reasons behind the “hovering” is the investment parents are making in their child’s education; the amount of money being spent justifies, in some parents’ minds, their right to oversee just how that money is being spent, which I find quite interesting, in that it’s the same justification often given to parents who take control over wedding plans—both making points about being in control financially, and both being a part of a system that has gotten ridiculously out of control, in terms of financial/societal expectations and the reliance young people have on their parents to help them pay the exorbitant costs. This, of course, all feeds into the various stereotypes surrounding the Great Millennial Panic: that we have a generation of children who feel that they are “owed” an expensive education/elaborate wedding, and parents who agree and foot the bill, with the understanding that they will be allowed to, in true parental fashion, call the shots, ensuring that the kids never really grow up.

But I think that’s too much of a simplification: there is something very difficult, I’d imagine, for parents who have to let their children go, and for any family spending tens of thousands of dollars, it’s understandable that they’d like to be informed about the investment they’re making. But babying a son or daughter all through the college experience isn’t going to help prepare them at all for the real world, and showing up at their dorm room every weekend to clean their room and cook them dinner certainly isn’t going to help them start taking responsibility for their own lives. It’s perfectly natural to cry, and to worry, and to be invested in your children’s lives, but at some point, you have to let them screw up and learn their own lessons without stepping in to save the day. I don’t think Millennial parents want to be seen as obnoxious “helicopters” any more than their children want to be seen as lazy, entitled, ADD-ridden unicorns ponies OMG there’s a DOG riding a TRACTOR WHAT!? But in order for both sides to break those cycles, there needs to be a detachment: pick up the safety scissors and cut the strings.

What was your college and/or moving out experience like, commenters? When it was time to leave home, did you parents help you financially? And if so, did they “hover” over your life in a negative or positive way? What would you say to a parent who has a child entering college this year? To an incoming freshman? Feel free to leave your words of advice in the comments.

Keeping Parents’ Helicopters Grounded During College [LATimes]

[Image via SomeECards]

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin