When the presidents of colleges and universities talk privately at this time of year, a popular topic is how to handle “helicopter parents.” We muse over what to say during new-student orientation sessions to dissuade parents from hovering over their children for the next four years — interfering with the maturation their children need, while driving us a bit crazy in the process.
The usual plan of attack is to lecture parents on the importance of letting go. “Help your children unpack,” parents are told. “Kiss them goodbye, and ask them to text you a couple of times per week.”
Having found that approach both unrealistic and ineffective, the two of us have come to take quite a different tack. We encourage the parents of freshmen to stay closely connected with their children.
Barry Glassner is president of Lewis &
Clark College in Oregon, where he also teaches
sociology. Morton Schapiro is president of
Northwestern University in Illinois,
where he also teaches economics.