Parent College Coach Tip #48: How to Help Without Hurting

help without hurtingLast night on #CampusChat we talked about helicopter parents who have gone wild. If you missed it, you can look at the recap: Today’s Helicopter Parents. Granted, there is a little bit of helicopter parent in all of us. But it’s easy to cross the line from hovering into swooping down and rescuing our children.

Being the parents that we are, we will want to help. And our helping is not always good. Sometimes we “help” and it ends up harming their ability to think, act, and decide for themselves. It’s easy to justify our actions but when it’s all said and done we want to raise competent, independent and decisive children.

Saying all of that, how do you help without hurting?

Teach them to self-advocate

One of the greatest tools a young adult can have is the ability to self-advocate. For years you have been fighting their battles for them. When they reach high school and move on to college, it’s time for them to learn how to do it for themselves. It may be hard to stand by silently and watch your teen get hurt or struggle with relationships (both with other teens and adults); but if you don’t step back, your college-bound teen will never be able to stand on their own two feet.


Listening is the hardest thing for a parent to do. We want to fix things because that’s what parents do. But sometimes things don’t need to be fixed. Sometimes our kids need to learn that life will bring conflict, disappointment and discouragement. They will learn this if you don’t jump in and fix every problem instantly. In college they will need to fix their own problems. Start letting them do this in high school.

Recognize their independence

Start early in high school and increase their freedom just a little at a time. As they exhibit responsibility and trustworthiness, allow them more freedom. By the time they leave for college they should be able to make decisions based on what is best for them simply because you allowed them to do it high school and fail at times.

Let go

You know the old adage, “If you love someone, set them free.” Parents never want to set their children free. We say we do. We try to do it. But deep down, when that little baby turns into a young adult it becomes harder and harder to let go. Parents who don’t let go have to deal with the repercussions later. This holding on has produced a generation of boomerang children—children who return home after college because they can’t succeed as independent adults.

For those parents who are waving goodbye to their teens in the fall, you’ve got three months to give them a crash course in independence. If you’re parenting an incoming high school freshman your job should be easy—you’ve got four years to get it done right!

You might also like to read: Teacup Parenting: College Preparation Tips for Parents

Read all of the Parent College Coach Tips here.