I confess – I’m a professional helicopter parent. I have three kids, all who were enrolled in college at the same time. But I was a helicopter parent long before they went to college. I worked at the same school they attended from elementary through high school.
Then when they enrolled in college, I continued clinging to my professional helicopter roots and got a job at UMHB. I dropped my son away from home (but only a couple of hours away). My Texan daughter went off at college in New Jersey. My youngest son is living at home while in college. Along the way, I have learned a few things. Take it from me:
They’re Not Dead
When I dropped off my daughter, and we said our goodbyes, we were stoic. As soon as I got in the car and drove off, I cried as if I had just seen her (and her dog) mowed down by an oncoming train! But I lived and she lived. She wasn’t dead – just enrolled in college. There’s no shame in crying it out! Time heals.
Bite Your Tongue
Don’t prolong their homesickness by dominating the conversation with everything they’ve missed since they’ve left home. When they call home let them tell you what they’ve been doing. You’ll lose less sleep knowing that they’re happy and meeting new friends.
For students living away from home, it’s a way to feel a part of their new community. For students living at home, it’s a way to introduce their hometown to their new friends. For you, your nest will feel less empty when you’re helping to feather someone else’s.
Silence Their Phone
Don’t make their phone sound off in every class with texts and phone calls from you. A phone call once or twice a week is actually okay. Let them come to you. They miss you too, and they will actually call you. Before you know it, you’ve touched base 3 or 4 times a week.
You Don’t Own It
Even though you might be paying for it, their education is their own. Your name isn’t on the bill or the diploma. They should learn how to understand their charges and fathom the meaning of student loans and other financial aid. Giving them ownership in their education makes it more meaningful. It’s a great way to help them grow and go.
Be Fireman Ready
Do things for yourself. Spend time with friends and remember to take care of yourself. After all, they may need you and you want to be happy, well-rested, and ready to take on anything when they call!
Even though the helicopter is grounded, never fear. Your job is not really done, the nest is not really empty… they will come back! And when they do, they bring with them a greater sense of independence, lots of friends, a fiancée, and dirty laundry.