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How ‘helicopter parenting’ impacts college students entering the workforce

A student registers at the Barnard College Career Fair on September 7, 2012 in New York City.
A student registers at the Barnard College Career Fair on September 7, 2012 in New York City.
John Moore/Getty Images

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Parents who become too involved in their kids’ transition from college-to-career could be doing more harm than good.

Helicopter parenting” has become a new way to describe well-meaning parents who interfere with many aspects of their children’s lives. It can mean anything from breaking up little ones’ disagreements during playdates to doing their homework for them well into high school and college. This type of parenting has become so popular, companies have even tried to accommodate their millennial employees, the generation this term was coined for, by hosting “Bring In Your Parents Day.”

“Helicopter parents” are usually described as those with the time and money to spend problem-solving for their kids. But raising children this way can hinder them from gaining skills to cope with life on their own, such as fighting their own battles or taking constructive criticism at school or work. For sheltered college students, it also means experiencing overwhelming anxiety over making a career choice.

While there are a number of reasons why college students have trouble deciding on a career, those that have been protected from the learning experiences of making their own mistakes have added pressure to succeed, fueling a fear of failure in the workplace that’s surpassed previous generations.

To squash the angst their kids may have over not getting the job, many of parents are turning to private career coaching companies with a hefty price tag. This will hopefully give their children an edge over the competition and a return on the investment in a university.

So when is it best to give kids guidance and when should parents let go? Does the best parenting happen from a distance?


Lori Shreve Blake, Senior Director of Alumni and Student Career Services at USC

Laura Pappano, writer in residence at the Wellesley College Centers for Women and author of the New York Times article, “Career Coaching for the Playdate Generation.”