Charger Family Connection

A Parent's Changing Role: How to Stay Involved without Hovering

By Lori Murray

Image of a student and her family visiting campus
Although you'll want to maintain some control over your student’s life, you don’t want to hover.

The time to send your child off to college has finally arrived. While it’s certain that their life will be different than it was at home, your role as the parent will change as well. And for some parents, that news is a bit hard to swallow. Although you’ll want to maintain some control over your student’s life, you don’t want to hover. Helicopter parents aren’t popular in the college dorms.

Still, studies show that parents want to stay involved in their college student’s life—at least to a degree. Fortunately, in this age of smart phones, video chat, and insta-everything, the distance between parent and child is easier to transcend than ever before. But that doesn’t mean the communication has to be constant.

"Although you’ll want to maintain some control over your student's life, you don’t want to hover. Helicopter parents aren’t popular in the college dorms."

Now’s the time to remove yourself from the nitty gritty details of your child’s life and focus on helping them with bigger issues.

Here are some tips for making the transition.

  • Instead of offering your opinion, ask questions—not in a grueling way, but to help your student make sense of their experiences. These should be non-threatening, open-ended questions, such as: What’s it like there? What do you think of your experiences so far? This is one way to determine if your student is adjusting socially.
  • Instead of giving out parental advice, help your student see the many options and perspectives available.
  • Know that some topics are non-negotiable, particularly if they affect the health and safety of your student. Initiate these topics before your child heads off to campus, but don’t hesitate to re-visit them after they leave home.
  • Managing finances can be hard work for some college students. To avoid potential pitfalls, set some ground rules. Make sure your student knows what college costs, and what portion they are responsible for. Emphasize that there are consequences for bad financial decisions, and that problems don’t just go away if they ignore them.
  • When it comes to academics, let your child take some relatively harmless risks. For instance, they may want to take a different elective class, which is a fairly low-risk opportunity. It’s good for parents to show support at this level.
  • Support the choices your student makes—within reason. You want them to come to you as a resource, but you also need to let them find their own way. Work to find a balance between challenge and support, and watch for signs that your student is getting overwhelmed.

A resident of Columbus, Ohio, Lori Murray writes for several national and regional publications. She is also a communications consultant, speaker, and writer for area businesses. Lori can be reached through her website,

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