by Olivia Miller
Helicopter parents, we have heard about them, read articles about them, you might even have some of your own; however, as much as you have read and discussed helicopter parents, working with them for the first time (on your own) is an experience of itself. I have had minimal experience with parents in my assistantship – parents wanting their children to major in blank when the student wants to major in something they are excited and passionate about, and a few parents came into the office if it was a campus visit for a high school student, but I had never worked with a helicopter parent.
A few weeks ago I worked with a helicopter parent twice, on the phone one day, and then the next day for two hours’ worth of walk-in appointments (which are scheduled for twenty minutes). Now this case is a unique one, this mother and daughter duo are international – adding another cultural layer of sensitivity to the term of helicopter parents. The mother first called wanting adjustments made to her daughter’s schedule, more “core” classes rather than the schedule I had originally prepared during New Student Enrollment. After about 30 minutes and repeated explanations of the reasoning behind the schedule, we said our goodbyes leaving me exhausted. The next day, the mother and daughter came into the office during “walk-ins.” I was thankful because it would be much easier to explain the general education requirements, College of Arts & Sciences requirements, and the major in person with visual aids. What I did not anticipate was two hours’ worth of back and forth discussion, led primarily by the mother of the same questions as the day before.
In this situation I felt like I was walking on a tightrope, between the developmental aspect for the student, and cultural sensitivity to the mother. I did not want her to think I was being disrespectful as I tried to remind the parent it was her daughter who would be taking the classes. I also tried to educate her on why I was advocating for her daughter’s class schedule. The daughter was quiet, but responsive when I would ask her what she thought and what she wanted, however, I could tell that the mother would have the final say. We came to an agreement of adjusting her schedule, and I ended the appointment with giving out my business card if they had any further questions, in the end I wanted the daughter satisfied with her schedule, one that she felt confident in and excited about to lessen her worries about attending school away from home. However, I am worried that my newly strengthened backbone was bent out of shape to accommodate the mother – with a future of multiple appointments just like this.
How would you handle this situation – an international helicopter parent? How have you worked with helicopter parents, any tips?