helicopter-parents

Crib note: The kids are ready for college. Parents? Not so much

July 26, 2012 at 11:25 AM ET

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When it comes to going to college, the kids are alright. Some parents aren't.

Eighteen years have come and gone. You’ve raised them well and now it’s time to send them on their way. It’s time to enjoy the newfound freedom of being an empty-nester while your kid goes off to college on her own.

For many parents, this is easier said than done. As a result, many kids these days aren’t going off to college on their own – not really. As the Wall Street Journal reports, parents are increasingly having a hard time letting go when their baby heads to higher education. Knowing this, colleges are incorporating mom and dad into the college experience, or at least orientation.

Twenty years ago, parenting programs at college campuses were virtually unheard of. Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find a college that didn’t offer some sort of welcome program for parents; more than 90 percent of schools offer something to help put parents' minds at ease.  There are orientation sessions, email newsletters, and parent portal websites. Some schools have administrators on staff who are dedicated to parent outreach. One school even has a special cell phone-free session for parents while kids register for classes, just so parents can’t butt in.

But not even that works all of the time.

Joyce Holl, executive director of the National Orientation Directors Association, told WSJ she "knows of one parent who hid behind a bush to watch student orientation through binoculars."

Saying goodbye isn’t the only thing parents today are struggling with. Letting their kids make their own decisions – about everything from drinking to making new friends -- are among the things today’s proud university parents are grappling with.

Karen Levin Coburn, co-author of "Letting Go: A Parents' Guide to Understanding the College Years," and senior consultant in residence at Washington University in St. Louis says:

"I've seen parents who essentially stalk the roommate on Facebook. They see something, maybe a drinking party or a certain religion, and then call the school and say, 'I don't want my child rooming with that person.' "

We all say we don’t want to be “that parent” but it’s often hard not to be. After all, we’ve been loving and caring for these kids since they were born. It’s hard to turn that off and go cold turkey.

And let’s not forget that college is an expensive endeavor. Parents are often putting large amounts of their savings into their kids’ education and they want to make sure that investment is handled responsibly. If you’ve been scrimping and saving for years so your kid can go to school, you, understandably, want to make sure your kid is registered for the right classes and then attending (and passing) those classes.

When kids graduate from teachers to professors, is it time for parents to bow out? Or, if they’re paying for school, do they have the right and responsibility to make sure their money’s being well spent, no matter how helicopterish that might look?

Dana Macario is a Seattle area mom to two young kids. She dreads the day her kids leave for college – preschool was hard enough.

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