Tips for Parents

Like a Bull in a China Shop: The Dangers of Distance Overparenting College Students

We’ve all heard about the sometimes difficult transition for all family members when a child first goes off to college. In my personal experience, my older brother had stayed home for his higher education, so the effects of the “leaving the nest” syndrome my parents experienced firmly fell on my shoulders when I first flew the coop. Although their many fears were eventually assuaged as I grew older and demonstrated more responsibility and independence, I had noticed other parents continually exhibiting signs of this debilitating syndrome, to the detriment of all involved, especially the students. The following are a few reasons why not slowly and reasonably letting go sets up your child for failure, both in school and in life.

Hyper-involvement affects your child’s self-esteem.

When I was in college years ago, I had noticed that the kids who had not yet cut the proverbial umbilical cord had the least sense of self-esteem out of all others. The difference was palpable and the reasons were pretty obvious-these students had their parents do everything for them. They were sent care packages constantly, and they were talking to their parents on the phone incessantly, too. Even if your child appreciates constant care and support, it has undeniable adverse effects if taken to an extreme. Your child will be hindered in developing her own sense of independence. Independence breeds confidence. Even if your child flounders without your constant help initially, the results are much better long-term.

Choosing majors must be your child’s domain.

The dangers of suggesting or requiring a specific field of study for your child are legion. I met more students who were under the duress of their parents’ major choice mandates than I can count. And each of these students-whether or not their parents were aware-was absolutely miserable. I remember at least three who actually dropped out of my alma mater because they hated what they studied, never to be seen or heard from again. While it is completely reasonable to be concerned and involved with what your child’s future aspirations are to be, concern can easily turn into too much control. Communicate with your child what she is passionate about and where her true interests lie. As an earlier UniversityParent article made clear about majoring in English, the choice of major really doesn’t matter in terms of future career success. But being happy about what one chooses to pursue in college makes all the difference.


Forgetting the unimaginable mental stressors students encounter in college will spell disaster.

I personally attended a well-established, competitive school, where the stress students experienced on a daily basis from all angles was astonishing. There was the stress from school work, the stress from peer pressure in engaging in unhealthy behaviors, and stress from parents. Minimizing even one factor in a student’s stressful college life is essential, especially when it is within your control. The saying, “like a bull in a china shop” seems perfectly designed to describe the troubles college students encounter. We’ve all heard about the high risk of depression in college students . This is simply because college students are certainly as fragile as china, and even one too stressful event could signal the onset of major mental health issues. I saw it happen to far too many students during my collegiate experience. Don’t let it happen to yours.

Going off to college is definitely a stressful time for everyone, but communication is key in helping your child have the best experience possible. By communication, I don’t mean of the obsessive variety, the kind that seeks to pry into every aspect of your child’s life. What I mean is the calm, nurturing kind of talking that helps your kid help herself.

This guest post is contributed by Jessica Cortez, who writes on the topics of online degree programs. She welcomes your comments at her email: [email protected].

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