Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Are Helicopter Parents Important? I think so.

Wikipedia defines helicopter parents as those who pay extremely close attention to his or her child or children, particularly while they are away at college. The term "helicopter parent" suggests that like an actual helicopter, parents "hover" nearby, able to swoop in quickly to address, fix or handle situations for their college students.

The term is mostly used in a derogative way on college campuses, sometimes by college career center professionals who are fielding calls from parents about job offers. Since these helicopter parents are accused of rushing in to prevent any harm or failure from befalling college students, sometimes, despite protests from the children they seek to protect.

Valerie Strauss in an article for Washington Post, says helicopter parents "are needy, overanxious and sometimes plain pesky -- and schools at every level are trying to find ways to deal with them".

As colleges and universities attempt to "deal with" helicopter parents, school administrators must balance other research that shows that students with strong parental involvement do better in school. The Harvard Family Research Project found that teens, whose parents played an active role in their education, do better in school and are more likely to enroll in college.

If parental influence supports better attainment in high schools, why would that not hold true for college students? Opponents of helicopter parents would seem to say that once their children are enrolled in college, parents should immediately take a hands-off approach.

With HigherEdInfo.com showing a 6-year college graduation rate in the US at 56.4% in 2006 and the 2003 annual ACT survey showed that only 37.5% of two-year college students were graduating within three years, would colleges not want more helicopter parents involved?

Experience, Inc., a provider of career advice and job hunting tools for college students and alumni, surveyed more than 400 students and new graduates on the involvement of their parents in their college or university life. The overwhelming majority of college students described their parents as moderately involved. Twenty five percent of students in the survey responded that their parents were "overly involved to the point that their involvement was either annoying or embarrassing." Only 13% of the respondents said their parents were not involved at all.

Is it possible that parental involvement at the college level could enhance rather than hinder college student graduation rates and should college administrators now begin to embrace rather than reject helicopter parents?

The College Board and the Art & Science Group found that almost 30% of college-bound seniors surveyed wished their parents did more to help them look for and apply to colleges. Only 6% wanted their parents to do less.

To help helicopter parents, the College Board offers this quick 12-question quiz to help parents gauge the current level of involvement with college age children.

Whether or not, one agrees or disagrees with the outcomes of the quiz, it does offer the opportunity for personal reflection and could be the foundation of a conversation between teenagers going to college and their parents.

I moved this post and wanted to share the comments:

Anonymous said...
of course parents play an important role in the education of their children. why would people call it pesky to want to be involved? i think more partners with school is better.

June 20, 2008 5:46 PM
Marcia said...
You are correct. Students succeed when parents continue to be involved. As with all things, balance is important as children get older and take on more responsibilities.

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