Parents with worries often do more harm than good, officials say
The baby boomer generation has spawned "helicopter parents," who are seen hovering over their child during the student's transition from home to college, a pattern that could keep students from learning to tackle problems on their own, an official said.
"The current generation of parents has a track record as being very involved," said Jim Van Arsdel, the director of Residence Life, who deals with parents of dorm residents on a regular basis.
After parents invest personally and financially in their children, they often hold high expectations and intervene to make sure they succeed, said Van Arsdel, adding that he's also the parent of a college freshman.
As a result, many students today lack the problem-solving skills that were more common 20 to 30 years ago, and technology makes it easier for students to phone home for a quick fix, he said.
"For some of them, as soon as they encounter a problem, their first reaction is to call Mom or Dad," Van Arsdel said.
But some students and their parents argue that close involvement in early years can allow parents to step back and trust their children in college.
Timothy Kolosick said he and his wife see themselves as "cheerleaders," rather than helicopter parents, when it comes to their daughter Thea Kolosick, a nutritional sciences freshman.
"You instill values when they are a child, and then encourage them to follow what you taught them," Timothy Kolosick said.
Parents should start transitioning children to have more responsibility before graduating from high school to prepare them for college life, Timothy Kolosick said.
"Some people think it's a little irresponsible of us, but I think it's very responsible," he said. "You let them make their own decisions and they live with the consequences of those decisions."
Timothy Kolosick, who is also a UA professor of music theory, said most of the freshmen who fail his classes are people who experience a complete change of environment from home life.
"Many students I see very often had parents helping with homework, double-checking deadlines," Kolosick said. "It changes from very careful parenting to no parenting at all."
Thea Kolosick said she appreciates how her parents raised her even though they challenge her to be responsible with her life.
"They're awesome because they stand back and watch me, and that's forced me to grow," she said.
Tusanne Cordes, a UA parent, said she calls almost every day to catch up with her daughter Elizabeth Blank, a biochemical and molecular biophysics freshman.
Although she asks her daughters about homework and listens to them grumble about lack of time and money, there usually isn't a need to intervene, Cordes said.
"They complain they don't have time for things, when I know they do," Cordes said. "They're adjusting to real life without having Mom and Dad right there."
Blank said other than missing her twin sister and home-cooked meals, it was easy to adjust because her mom gave her freedom when she lived at home.
"She was always involved, but not overprotective," Blank said.
Leah Durnin, a communication freshman, said transitioning from the
structured life at home to the dorm has gone smoothly because her parents trusted her and prepared her well.
"I was a really good kid and I didn't give them much grief," Durnin said. "We had a nice, symbiotic relationship."
Kristin Anderson, Durnin's mother, said if the transition isn't difficult for the student, it is hard for the family.
"It's been a period of adjustment for all of us," Anderson said.
Keeping an open relationship with her daughter makes it easier to have her away, especially at a large campus like the UA, Anderson said.
"I know my daughter very well, and she can avoid a lot of possible situations where she wouldn't be using her head," Anderson said.