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May 27, 2007

TLC Advice-a-Thon: Kerry's Advice for When Your Kid Starts College

TLC Advice-a-Thon: Kerry's Advice for When Your Kid Starts College

By Kerry, The Martial Tart

Things you need to know when your child starts college . . .

1. You and your child have very different ideas about the purpose of his/her college education. You think it’s a way to either Relive Your Glory Days or, by proxy, to Realize Your Unrealized Dreams. Your child understands that it’s about Finally Getting Away From Home. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

2. Someone in the Federal Government developed a sense of humor once upon a time and dreamed up a little law called FERPA (The Family Education and Right to Privacy Act). According to FERPA guidelines, your son/daughter is to be treated as a responsible adult (this would be the “humor” part). Even if you’re paying the bills, you will be denied access to information about course progress, final grades, reasons for suspension, etc. without your child’s written permission. Unless, of course, you know how to hack into the college’s computer, in which case minor issues like the law probably don’t much matter.

3. A new word has been invented for parents who refuse to enjoy the fact that their children are, if not out of mind, then at least out of sight and who persist in meddling, er, "staying meaningfully involved" in their college students’ daily lives. They are called Helicopter Parents (as in, always hovering). This is a Bad Thing.
Do not let it happen to you.

4. Apropos of number 3 above, if you can’t figure out what it is you’re supposed to be doing as an “empty nester”, please see Margie. She’ll get you all kinds of straightened out. In fact, you may wind up trying to dissuade your college student from coming home, even for holidays . . .

Note from Margie - I love Kerry. And she is so good at this kind of thing that she has her own website! Check it out at Dr. Mom's Guide To College


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Kerry! I had no idea you had a website? Jeez, girl, we are hussies when it comes to promoting other people's websites! And yours is very cool. Love it.

Kerry, what great advice! For me, it's great timing--two rising seniors. Your website looks fabulous. I plan on sharing it with friends.

I'd never heard the term "helicopter parent" but I have heard about parents shadowing their kids during the first week of classes. When I told my older son about that, and explained that it meant actually staying at the college and attending classes WITH HIM, he said, "If you do that, I'm not going." Well, duh. I've been to college, more than once, actually, and if I go again, it's not going to be accompanying my kid.

Anyway, that first week of no kids, I plan on being in Tahiti. Or rather, since I'll be poor, just down the road in Rehoboth. It'll be a beach, not a classroom, that's for sure.

Kerry - What a great site for parents! Having spent many many years in university settings, moms can be so sneaky getting grades!

Good advice

I just recently read an article about Helicopter Parents - some continue to hover, even after the kids graduate from college: going to job fairs with the grad's resume (and sometimes the grad), showing up at the grad's workplace, to check things out, etc.

My question is "Why?????" - why would any parent do these things and why would any adult child permit that parent to do these things??

And one of the bad things about these Helicopter Parents is that they almost always try to make us non-hoverers seem like we don't care.

Ooh - good timing for me too. My daughter is about to graduate and starting college in the Fall. Her problem, though, is that she doesn't WANT to go away from home. Which is why she needs to.

My parents gave me a 24-hour monitoring device when I went to college. Cell phones had just become a bit more common place and I had one so Mom could call me at any moment and know exactly where I was and what I was doing. Fortunately, the bar in town was called The Library... she never could figure out why my grades were only a 3.4 when I spent so much time (almost every night) at the library... lol. She is a classic helicopter mom, still is even though I'm grown up in theory.

My parents drew a circle on the map - two hours from home.

I had to pick a college in the circle.

By the time my brother (the youngest of five) came along, he could've gone to Tokyo. He didn't. Went to Bucknell - far enough to avoid the 'parental pop-in'.

I'm told that my mother cried half way back to Wisconsin from dropping me at a small liberal arts school...in the middle of Arkansas...this past fall. However, I think that in the first two weeks of summer I have managed to convince her that maybe she's better off with me 800 miles away : )

Thanks for the kind words. I loved that my daughter was 1.5 hours from home. Close enough to get to in case of emergencies (and for the mandatory holiday pickups during the Year Without A Car to be painless), and close enough for the VERY occassional visit/shopping expedition, but far enough away that she was really on her own.

I stayed in casual touch via IM, which suited us both.

Helicopter Parents seem to be part of a move toward viewing college as a retail experience, with the kids and their parents as consumers. Unfortunately, the most obnoxious parents (and their kids) don't understand that they are purchasing opportunity rather than a diploma, and take a nearly litigious attitude toward what we educators are doing "to" their kids.

Of course, none of the readers here would do anything of the sort :)

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