Maybe your parents are on the more…involved side of things. The way your mom called in a few favors when you didn’t get the psychology class you wanted drove you insane, but you just called and thanked her for her help. All parents do that kind of stuff, right? I hate to break it to you, but that’s definitely not the norm. You might have, wait for it—helicopter parents—AKA a parent who’s just a little bit “extra.” Some parents just want to help; others completely control their kids’ lives. Looks like you need help slowly inching yourself away from their excessive tendencies. Good luck.
Spot the Helicopters
First, you need to establish if you have helicopter parents in the first place. “It is normative for parents to want to know what is going on in their child’s life and to ask questions regarding how the student is doing,” said said Florida State University doctoral student Kayla Reed. “It crosses into helicopter parenting when parents begin to overstep and frequently tell students how to handle an issue, such as with a professor or roommate, and/or handle the situation on their behalf.”
Think about it. Has your mom ever tried to yell at your irritating roommate for always using up the toilet paper? Or as Reed mentioned, do your parents buy your groceries and monitor your diet and exercising habits instead of simply encouraging you to stay healthy? If that sounds familiar, you have helicopter parents. And you’ll need help convincing them you can actually manage your own life.
Don’t tell them everything
Start with this easy first step. You’ll want keep your parents in the loop, but don’t feel compelled to divulge every detail of the frat party you went to last weekend or that time you wrote your six-page anthropology essay in 38 minutes (a new record!) with them. College gives you a great opportunity to branch out and explore. You learn how to make hard decisions on your own, sans mom and dad’s advice.
“Instead of students going to their parent with a problem and their parent automatically telling them how to handle it, the student can let the parent know, prior to explaining the problem, what type of help they are seeking,” said Reed. Don’t know where to start? Reed suggested students say: “I don’t need a solution, I just want to talk through something with you.” Easy and diplomatic, this handy phrase can work wonders.
Take back control
What if you need or want a more drastic solution? “If you want to see a change in the way you and your parents interact, that change can start with you,” said Florida State University Assistant Professor in the Department of Family and Child Services Mallory Lucier-Greer. You might feel intimidated to strike up a convo with Mom and Dad, but suck it up. It’s the mature and responsible thing to do. “As emerging adults, you can begin a meaningful (and kind!) conversation with your parents about what you need from them and areas of your life where their input is not needed,” Lucier-Greer said. Take a deep breath and be as honest as you possibly can with your parents.
There’s still hope!
Your world isn’t ending. You’ll graduate and mature—and hopefully your parents will as well. The more independent you become, the less integrated role your parents will play in your day-to-day coffee runs (they do know that you have your license, right?) or your annual doctors’ appointments.
On the bright side, when you look back on your academic adventures, you might note that your helicopter parents helped you. “My mother has always been an integral part in my education. Growing up in East Oakland, California, my school options and opportunities to be academically successful would have been limited without my mom’s help,” said University of San Diego sophomore Simone Batiste.
Although overzealous at the time, maybe there is a method to our parents’ madness. “She managed to stay involved in PTA meetings, bank day, bake sales, extracurricular activities, school plays, you name it. Through her involvement she showed me that school was more than just a place to sit in a classroom with friends and listen to an old person talk,” said Batiste.
Even if it doesn’t feel like it, parents only want to help and give you everything they can. So if your parents take an intense hands-on role in your life, make strides to create a healthy distance so you can finally start doing you.