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We are not advocating parent helicoptering. Engagement is not hovering.
College students need to practice their independence, make their own decisions, take responsibility for their education, and begin to lay the foundation for their future. But when you drop your student off on Move-in Day, your parenting job doesn’t end — it simply changes. (Actually, it’s not simple, but it changes.) When your student graduates from college, your parenting job doesn’t end — it changes once again. You are a parent for life.
However, there’s a difference between checking in with your student and checking up on your student. That can be the difference between helicoptering and engagement.
Why are parents so involved?
Throughout most of our student’s school years, the messaging has been that parental involvement correlates with success. We’ve been told we need to partner with the school to support our students and to send them the message that their education matters. Students are used to us being involved — and many, perhaps the majority, want it to continue. Why should we believe that things will change when those same students head to college?
But it does change. Parental engagement on the college level needs to look different. In addition to having been told that being involved is important, parents know that college is expensive! Actively working with our student is a way to protect our investment. We want to ensure that our student graduates on time. We want to ensure that our student secures a good job. And we want to ensure that our student is happy and fulfilled. In her book, Parenting to a Degree, author Laura Hamilton suggests that many parents are involved to ensure that their student ”finish college and get a good job.” It’s a tall order.
When does involvement become over-involvement?
There is no doubt that parents today are more involved with their college students’ lives than in previous generations. Gone are the days when parents dropped students off on Move-in Day, perhaps talked by phone a couple of times during the first months, and then first saw their students again at Thanksgiving.
We’ve been encouraged to be involved, and now we have the tools to do that — even from a distance. Researcher and professor Barbara Hofer, author of the book, The iConnected Parent¸ suggests that the cell phone has profoundly changed student-parent communication. The cell phone has become the ”electronic tether” that can potentially thwart students’ process of becoming independent. We want to support our student. But we walk a fine line.
Consider whether you’ve ever done any of the following:
These are not fictional scenarios, they happen. And in most cases, they cross that fine line.
Why does appropriate parent engagement matter?
Appropriate college parent engagement can send a strong, positive message to your student about the value of their college education and your belief in their growth. You know your student best. You can watch and listen for changes and messages that may indicate trouble. As parents, you have a perspective on your student that the college will never have — but remember that the college can get to know your student in ways that you might not.
Imagine a three-legged stool. It takes three legs to hold the stool up. If one is taken away, or is too short or too long, the stool will fall over. Student success is like that stool. Three legs — student, college, parents. Your student’s success relies on all three distinct parts.
How does your student’s college view parents?
Obviously, if you’re going to be one leg of your student’s success, it’s important that the college recognize the part you play. If you’re wondering how best to be engaged, begin by considering how Missouri S&T views parents:
What might college parent engagement look like?
According to Marjorie Savage, researcher on college parenting and author of You’re On Your Own But I’m Here if You Need Me, parents are a positive element when they:
Specifically, what can you do?
Because no one knows your student as well as you do, you can help your student make sense of their college experiences and stick it out if times get rough. Your engagement reinforces for your student the importance to their success of the balance of student, parents, and college.
Author of Article: Vicki Nelson. Article adapted from collegeparentcentral.com. Please Note: Missouri S&T does not endorse or have a relationship with SOURCE and articles are provided for information purposes only. Missouri S&T and SOURCE do not assume responsibility for error or omission in materials.
Parent & Family Relations
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