Do your parents have your college course schedule posted on their refrigerator? Does your mom call you in the morning to make sure you don’t oversleep? Is your dad trying to give advice to your freshman team coach (how mortifying!) The diagnosis is in—you have helicopter parents.
Okay, you’ve probably known this for a while, as have your former teachers, activity leaders, bus drivers, and best friends’ moms, but what are you going to do about it? Even if your helicopter parents don’t go to extremes, realize that it’s still not easy for them to just let go of you the day you move into college. The truth is, helping you succeed has been a major focus of their lives for the last 18 years or more. What do they have to focus on now that you’re not home?
The best thing you can do to help helicopter parents let go is to gently ease their time and attention onto new pursuits, and we have the resources to help you! When your parents realize how rewarding it is to focus on themselves again, you will gain some elbow room and they will learn how to find fulfillment elsewhere. But be careful what you wish for—you may come home from college one day to find them measuring your room!
Here are StudentAdvisor’s top 5 ideas for getting helicopter parents to hover somewhere else:
1. A little learning goes a long way.
Are your parents hovering over your coursework? Do they reminisce about their college days? Do they let you know how much they loved to learn, and how lucky you are? These helicopter parents need some college coursework of their own to challenge them.
Sites such as Coursera and MIT’s edX offer college-level courses to the masses for free online. Ask your mom and dad if they’ve ever wished they could take courses from top schools like Harvard, Stanford, or Georgia Tech. Maybe they always wanted to go to college abroad, but weren’t able to. Now they can!
These free college classes, known as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), are taught by professors from top-tier universities all over the world. You can connect your parents to thousands of them on an easily searchable database at LearningAdvisor.com. Here are a few popular examples:
- Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science: In this introductory course, top chefs and Harvard researches come together to explore the meeting of cooking, physics, and engineering.
- Programming Languages: From the University of Washington, this class teaches the basic concepts underlying all computer programming languages.
- The Ancient Greek Hero: This self-paced Harvard course surveys ancient Greek literature.
- Start Writing Fiction: This hands-on course guides aspiring writers to start the book they have always dreamed of writing, with an emphasis on how to develop unforgettable characters.
- What’s Your Big Idea?: Experts from UNC Chapel Hill teach tomorrow’s entrepreneurs tools to put their ideas in motion, whether it’s to change the world or create the next innovative product.
2. Take off the training wheels.
Do your parents turn to you whenever they need help with technology? Are they texting you at college every time their computers crash or they can’t upload a video to their Facebook page? Do they tell you their ideas for apps you should make to get rich? It’s time to take the training wheels off these parents so they learn to do these things for themselves while you’re away. There are plenty of online resources to help your parents learn whatever they need to know. Here are a few good examples:
- To help them become experts at seeking out answers to their own questions, send them to study insider tips and tricks for searching Google.
- To give parents a better understanding of how computers work, point them to Computer Science 101, a simple, entertaining, top-rated MOOC for computer novices from Stanford University.
- The next time your parents have an idea for a great new app, encourage them to create it themselves with an Android app-writing tutorial for beginners.
And while we’re on the subject of apps, Social media productivity apps for business and work is a site full of video tutorials that take 60 seconds or less to view and promises to teach your parents to use top social media productivity apps to make them shine at work. That should keep them busy for a while!
3. Back to school. Back to work.
Speaking of work, you may have a parent who left work to raise you or one who never completed a degree program. Now is the perfect time to encourage your mom or dad to re-train for a new career! If they already have a bachelor’s degree, they may be able to take an online certificate program to update their skills. If they need a bachelor’s or master’s degree to jump back into the job market, there are many online degree and local community college programs geared toward adults returning to school, as well as resources for adults to find college scholarships of their own.
[Tell your parents they can get college credit for life experience!]
4. Idle hands…
Encourage your parents to occupy their excess time with new hobbies. LearningAdvisor has links to thousands of free and low-cost options for developing their talents. Here’s a quick sample:
- For the budding photographer, try Free Photoshop Tutorials: Free Online Photography Course.
- Those with a passion for writing might like How to Start a WordPress Blog or Video Script Writing.
- Courses for artists include Learn to Draw and Learn Basics of Plein Air Painting.
The list of possibilities goes on and on!
5. Parents are teachers, too.
When you think of your favorite teachers, which ones come to mind? The first-grade teacher who read you books at story time? A male teacher who let you roughhouse on the playground? A high school teacher who ignited your passion for science or language or the arts? It may not be your parents who pop into your head, but the truth is that they have been among the most important teachers in your life. They have sown the seeds of learning that have brought you to college and that will continue to bear fruit as you experience the world around you on your own.
But if you have a helicopter parent that just can’t stop teaching, it’s time to direct them toward a teaching career! There are teacher shortages in every state, and alternative teacher-training programs to help adults transition into the field when they already have other degrees or experience. Teach.com has a great interactive map parents can browse that connects them to all the information they will need about becoming a teacher in any state, including teacher shortage areas, salary information, and alternative paths to the classroom.
[Get started with a Master’s in Teaching degree.]
In the end, remember that your parents just love you, be patient with them, and push them out of the nest when they’re ready to go!
We’d love to hear your stories about helicopter-parent moments and share creative ideas for helping parents let go. Please tell us your stories here or on our Facebook page.
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