College Parents Should Keep a Healthy Distance

Each week it seems like college officials are coming out with new words for parents. We started with “helicopter parents,” who hover about their students even when they don’t need or ask for it. Then we added “blackhawk helicopter parents” to describe the attack style of parents overly protecting their kids.


I have never liked those styles because it seems to negatively affect everyone around the parent and student, including the student himself/herself. Well, now there’s a word for that too. College officials are apparently now calling students “teacups” to describe how they are extremely fragile because they are overprotected. After those fragile, overprotected students are pushed too hard and become burned out, they are then called “crispies.”


Parents, I know you love your children, but there are things you need to let them do for themselves.

  • Application Process– Don’t fill out your kids’ college applications for them. Let them know you support them and will provide help like proof reading, but don’t do too much more than that.
  • Campus Visits– Let your student set up his or her own college visits, and when on a campus tour or meeting with campus officials, let your student lead the conversation.
  • College– During the summer, I like to volunteer a week of my time as a camp counselor. During counselor training, the leader always tells us to do for the campers only what they cannot do for themselves. That is what college parents should do. I know you want to do everything you can to ensure your child succeeds and has the best experience possible, but this is his or her college experience, not yours. Support your student in every way possible, but only get hands-on when you are asked. While we may roll our eyes when you tell us to walk to the library in groups and remember to get enough sleep, we know you say it because you love us. But you should never show up to walk your student to the library or walk into a party to get your son or daughter to come home early to get enough sleep. That’s going too far.


As a college parent, find the happy medium between over involvement and not caring about your child’s college experience. You want your student to achieve college success, but not turn out as a “teacup.”

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