For many postsecondary students, a visit from their parents is a wonderful chance to catch up and share stories of their experiences at school. For 21-year-old student Aubrey Ireland, however, these visits quickly became a nightmare.
The Kansas native attends College-Conservatory School at the University of Cincinnati. When she began attending classes there, her parents soon routinely started making the 1000-kilometre drive unannounced to Ohio to check up on their daughter. Their overbearing behaviour even extended to install keylogging software on both her computer and her cell phone.
At the end of 2012, Aubrey had had enough. She applied for a restraining order against her parents, which was upheld by both the court and her school.
This is a very extreme example of “helicopter parents” – parents who, like helicopters, constantly hover over their children and are overly engaged in their lives.
Principal Hardy began his assembly address on February 20 with this example of extreme helicopter parenting to discuss a study recently published by the Journal of Child and Family Studies from researchers at the University of Mary Washington. The study asked a series of questions of university undergraduates relating to helicopter parent behaviour.
“The study revealed that students with overly engaged parents felt less autonomous, less competent and less connected to their parents,” Principal Hardy said. “Many of these students also exhibited symptoms of depression.”
The study aligns with many years of anecdotal evidence, much of which comes from administrators at postsecondary institutions.
“It is very important that children are allowed to struggle, and occasionally fail,” Principal Hardy said. “While it is difficult for parents to watch their children go through difficulties, some degree of stress is actually necessary to develop coping skills. Learning how to manage stress is essential – in high school, in postsecondary school, and in the working world.”
What was Principal Hardy’s takeaway for students?
“By all means, continue to talk with your parents about your experience at Greenwood. However, I encourage all students to proactively manage day-to-day school outcomes.” Principal Hardy said. “What this means is that if you get a test result that is less than you hoped for, then it’s your responsibility to speak with your teacher about how you can improve upon this result. If you’re not getting enough playing time on one of our sports teams, it’s up to you to start the conversation with your coach. Developing self-advocacy skills is an integral part of your success at Greenwood and beyond. The more experience you have of this kind, the more likely it is to become a habit of mind.”