Helicopter or helpful parent?

In a post last week from Barbara, she talked about helicopter parents Click here to learn about third-party website links. I’ve been thinking about the same topic lately, but from the other side of the fence … wondering if I AM a helicopter parent.

When my stepdaughter was in high school Click here to learn about third-party website links 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 Click here to learn about third-party website links. 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 Click here to learn about third-party website links, 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?

Caroline Hanson

About Caroline Hanson

Caroline is a communications consultant for Wells Fargo Education Financial Services. Although she has been known to forget her own ZIP code, she has memorized the lyrics to every bad 1970s pop song ever written. Unfortunately, she also loves karaoke. Caroline spends her spare time at Target®. She also likes biking slowly and has participated in RAGBRAI. Caroline is a graduate of Iowa State University and has worked in journalism and public relations for the past 14 years. She lives in Iowa with her husband and has a 19-year-old stepdaughter and 2-year-old son.
This entry was posted in Financial education, Parents, Paying, Preparing, Student loans, Wells Fargo Bank. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Helicopter or helpful parent?

  1. Jooli says:

    My son just called me at 1:00AM crying and panicking about his final and his obsessing over not studying enough even though he’s been studying for days. What should i say to him? He was so unhappy!

  2. Barbara Raus says:

    Hey Jooli — As Caroline is on maternity leave, it’s Barbara responding… It sounds like your son was prepared but still had some anxiety over the test. I remember that feeling! If it happens often you could suggest he look into different study techniques, group study sessions, etc. Sometimes it helps to have others to commiserate with! For what it’s worth, when I made those kind of calls to my mom — mostly when I was frustrated with my involvement at the campus newspaper — really all I needed to hear was her voice. I knew she didn’t have the answer to the issue, but her message — generally something like “this too shall pass” — helped to calm me down.

The Student LoanDown

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

Your questions and comments really matter to us! We're glad you want to join the conversation and connect with other readers. All we ask is that you keep some simple guidelines in mind:

  • Stay on-topic. Only comments that are related to the subject of the blog entry will be posted.
  • Be respectful. It's okay if you disagree with a post or comment, but please, no personal attacks or offensive language.
  • Maintain your privacy and confidentiality.Please do not provide any of your specific account details or other personal information! If you have immediate service needs, please contact your bank representative or Customer Service.
  • Wells Fargo team members: In the interest of full disclosure, if you are a current employee of or are associated with Wells Fargo, please make note of your affiliation.