Parent College Coach Tip #74: Are You Overparenting Your Teen?


If you haven’t read this article yet, you should: Kids of Helicopter Parents Are Sputtering Out.

The subheading: Recent studies suggest that kids with overinvolved parents and rigidly structured childhoods suffer psychological blowback in college.

Why is this happening?

We live in a very different world. Our concerns for safety cause us to give in to overprotection, even when it’s not necessary. The competition for college admission has become more than a rite of passage; it’s become a race to see whose child gets into what college and who has bragging rights. We have the best of intentions–wanting the best for our children; but those intentions have snowballed into overparenting our teenagers and harming them emotionally.

In 2013, Charlie Gofen, the retired chairman of the board at the Latin School of Chicago, a private school serving about 1,100 students, emailed the statistics off to a colleague at another school and asked, “Do you think parents at your school would rather their kid be depressed at Yale or happy at University of Arizona?” The colleague quickly replied, “My guess is 75 percent of the parents would rather see their kids depressed at Yale. They figure that the kid can straighten the emotional stuff out in his/her 20’s, but no one can go back and get the Yale undergrad degree.”

Can this be true? Are parents willing to risk their child’s emotional health for a college degree?

How can parents prevent these negative outcomes?

Take a step back and let your student figure out things for themselves. Let them problem solve, self-advocate, and make their own decisions before leaving for college. Give them space to grow and expect them to be accountable for their actions–don’t bail them out of consequences.

Madeline Leving, psychologist and author of The Price of Privilege wraps it all up nicely:

When children aren’t given the space to struggle through things on their own, they don’t learn to problem solve very well. They don’t learn to be confident in their own abilities, and it can affect their self-esteem. The other problem with never having to struggle is that you never experience failure and can develop an overwhelming fear of failure and of disappointing others. Both the low self-confidence and the fear of failure can lead to depression or anxiety.