When my stepdaughter was in high school I know we hovered a bit. Definitely more than parents of my generation did. Her dad and I monitored her grades online and kept up on when she was having tests and quizzes. Was that just responsible parenting, or was it “helicoptering”?
When it came time for college, we pushed for her to visit an out-of-state college “just to see.” And we tromped along with all the other parents on the college visit . Were we helicoptering again? I know it’s completely accepted—and even expected—today that parents get involved in their kids’ college choices and go on college visits. But horror of horrors … my own parents did not.
But now my stepdaughter is in college. It’s time to back off, right? We have … kind of. We didn’t advise her on what classes to take, we aren’t emailing her professors, and we’re not calling to wake her up in the morning or anything crazy like that. However, when she was looking for a part-time job , I found myself perusing the employment ads for her. We peek at her bank account regularly to make sure she’s not running low on funds. Is that helicoptering?
A friend of mine works for a university and supervises student workers. She’s got some experience with helicopters. She said some parents seem almost like personal assistants to their college-age children, scheduling their job interviews and such. One parent even turned down an interview on behalf of her daughter. The mom didn’t think it sounded like a good fit.
Wow. I can’t imagine going quite that far. But I can see how a parent can easily slide across that fine line between “helpful” and “helicopter.” I have a 2-year-old. And I try really, really hard to let him put on his own shoes. Even when it takes 15 minutes. Even when they wind up on the wrong feet. But some days I just can’t stand it, and I get in there and put ‘em on for him.
When your kid gets to be 20 years old, it’s still really hard to stand by and watch her put her shoes on the wrong feet—metaphorically speaking, of course.
So, when is it time to back off? What do you think is the line between just being a helpful parent and being a helicopter?