The Copter on the Quad

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Helicopter parents don't just cut the engine once their kids make it into college.

One student affairs director recalls a mother who had a GPS device installed in her daughter's purse, a mother driving 400 miles round trip in one day to attend a study habits workshop with her son, and a mother who spent 10 days living on the floor of her child's dorm room to ease the transition to college.

Some schools are trying to combat the interference. At Colgate University, Beverly Low, the dean of first-year students, acknowledges that saying goodbye is not easy. But in her August 2006 letter to parents of the class of 2010, she emphasizes that "among the many goals of a Colgate education is helping students to become resilient, independent, and self-sufficient adults."

To help with self-sufficiency, Colgate's Web site offers tips for parents on "Partnering for a Colgate Education" in which they are encouraged not to be silent partners exactly, but also not to be "I e-mailed your professor about your term paper extension" partners either.

Here, direct from the school's Web site, is advice for parents:

· Ask your children questions (e.g. who could you talk with?), as opposed to providing answers.

· Encourage them to learn to identify and use available resources (e.g. Deans, faculty), but avoid the temptation of making the call yourself.

· Help them understand that process is crucial in an educational environment. The quick fix often blunts the learning. For example: most often students are better off learning to live with a roommate who is different, rather than moving rooms. They will learn to negotiate difference and to manage conflict.

· Take us up on offers to help (we hope everybody completed AlcoholEdu with your children), but avoid the temptation of getting overly involved in processes that are designed for students to do alone (e.g. selecting classes).

-- Rachel Dry

© 2007 The Washington Post Company