Recently I got asked to comment on advice for “Helicopter Parents”. Specifically the website wanted suggestions for “checking in” with college students without hovering. Here are a couple key points from that discussion:

I recommend parents set boundaries for themselves regarding when they will check-in with their child. For example: Make an agreement with your child that once every week or every other week, you will schedule a phone call where you will go over how they are doing in school and life. Keep that scheduled phone call consistent, especially during the first semester. During that phone call, be careful not to react strongly to the news they tell you, listen to it and respond calmly. You are trying to build a healthy adult to adult relationship, and your child will only shut down or turn you off if you react emotionally to the content that they do tell you. Outside of that phone call, only offer advice when solicited (when they call you!). Set this rule for yourself and ensure that you hold the boundary.

A second recommendation is to avoid “interview mode”. Often times a parent may ask a child questions such as “how is school going?”, but they will answer with a series of half answers or perhaps a statement such as “ok”. The “helicopter parent” inclination is to start bombarding them with more specific questions, which will simply back the child more into a corner. My recommendation is start with a specific question, such as “What grade did you get on your Math test last week?”, and then after they answer that question ask if you can ask more questions “Could I ask you about your other classes?”. This allows them to be in an “adult” mindset and realize that they have the right to answer or not answer. The more you can treat them like adults, the more they will behave like adults.  This final statement can be difficult to remember, especially when college students at times behave much younger than their chronological age. Treat them like adults anyway.


– Dan Hanks, M.Ed is a Licensed Professional Counselor and School Psychologist.