The Complete Candidate’s Transition to College Playbook Part 6: The Parent’s Role

Helicopter Parent By Charlie Powerll
Illustration by Charlie Powell

I was recently touring a prominent university in the Mid-West when I noticed a young man leave his dorm with a huge basket full of dirty laundry.  A car pulled up and an elegantly dressed lady exited the driver-side door, popped the trunk and put the laundry basket in.  I thought to myself, “Oh, this boy is going home for a visit and bringing his laundry as a “gift” for his mom – just as my oldest did for me.”  (Mine reassured me it was so I would still feel “needed.”  So thoughtful of him!)    I continued to watch the scene unfold as I remembered those days fondly but what followed was entirely new.  Instead of getting into the car with his mom, this young man opened the back seat where fresh laundry, including shirts already pressed and on hangers were waiting for him.  He removed the clean garments, bid farewell to his mom and watched her drive away, ready to do the next load.  At least she feels “needed.”

I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had with college deans who tell me countless stories of parents who call to complain about the heavy work load a professor is assigning, a poor grade their student earned on a paper,  or schedule appointments for their child with health services or academic advising.

Whether it’s your first child leaving home or the last one leaving you with an empty nest, letting go of the babies who have depended on you for the last 18-19 years is difficult.  Yes, the transition to a new school, city, and environment can be challenging for our children but it’s also tough for those of us they leave behind.  However, it’s important to remember that this transition to college is an important one, not just in their education, but also in helping them become adults.  Your job as a parent is to help your sons and daughters become independent, capable, mature grown-ups who are able to face and overcome the obstacles, experiences and challenges that come before them.  If not, you might find yourself in the same position as Christina and Mark Rotondo who had to take their 30 year old son to court to force him to finally leave the house and develop an independent life of his own.

Here’s a list of DO’s and DON’T’s to help you help your children gain the independence:

Academic Interference:

  • DON’T complete or edit class assignments or papers (yes, some parents have been known to do this)
  • DON’T take responsibility for time management
  • DON’T contact professors to complain about grades (yes, this actually happens, as well)
  • DO help your child identify campus resources to help them achieve academic success

Social Interference:

  • DON’T call 5 times a day
  • DON’T allow your child to come home every weekend
  • DON’T overly indulge homesickness
  • DO help your child make a plan to help them integrate in on campus clubs and activities

Personal Interference:

  • DON’T immediately overreact to normal ups and downs (refer to the college roller coaster)
  • DON’T do ALL their laundry or take responsibility for personal needs
  • DON’T immediately bail them out of credit card debt
  • DO help your child develop the skills, resources and confidence to solve their own problems

To maximize the likeliness that your college-bound student will be successful, be sure to explore the other parts of The Complete Candidate’s College Transition Playbook:

Part 1: The College Roller Coaster

Part 2: College Success Framework

Part 3: Selecting the Right School

Part 4: Summer Preparation

Part 5: Nailing the First Semester

Part 7: Transferring Out

Part 8: The Legal Stuff

Mauler Pattern Thin
Mauler Pattern Thin