Parent Engagement

The Ethos of the Overinvolved Parent

Christina O'Connor / AP

Christina O'Connor / AP

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Stacy G.’s daughter was having a meltdown. Her daughter, a sophomore at a prestigious private college, wanted an internship at Boston Children’s Hospital, a plum job that would look great on her applications to graduate school. After four weeks of frantically waiting for the school to arrange for an interview at the hospital, Stacy called her daughter’s adviser at the internships office to complain.

“For $65,000 [in full attendance costs], you can bet your sweet ass that I’m calling that school ... If your children aren’t getting what they’ve been promised, colleges are going to get that phone call from parents,” Stacy said. “It’s my money. It’s a lot of money. We did try to have her handle it on her own, but when it didn’t work out, I called them.”

Whether Stacy is representative of the majority of parents of students at four-year, selective colleges or a member of the dreaded “helicopter parents” club, there are enough parents like her to have spawned a small industry of self-helpbooks on the subject, research papers, and even a new cellphone app. Checking in with their children daily and occasionally contacting school administrators, a contingent of parents of students at these schools has stepped up its involvement levels in recent years, sources told me, because of technology, employment concerns, and the high price of college. And colleges themselves have responded by creating new channels to communicate with parents.

Laura Hamilton, an associate professor of sociology at the University of California, Merced, began studying a group of college women and their families back in 2004, embedding herself in the dormitory of a midwestern college and later writing about her qualitative research in two books, Paying for the Party and Parenting to a Degree. As Hamilton explained in a 2016 Atlantic article adapted from the latter book, involvement by the parents varied. Some parents, often those without college experience themselves, had a hands-off approach to their kids’ higher education, while other parents were more involved. Among the most highly involved parents, some helped their kids navigate the school bureaucracy so they could later enter into graduate programs or a solid entry-level job requiring a degree. Others were highly involved with their daughters’ social lives, assuring that they were well-positioned to find wealthy husbands. “The Mrs. degree is alive and well,” Hamilton told me. (Read More...)

Social Networks & Friends May Affect Student Success

As college parents, we have witnessed the influence of our children’s friends.  From elementary school to high school many of us have taken steps to encourage certain friendships or even to discourage other friendships.

We also know that great teachers, good study habits, and the right environment are important combinations to completing college. Now an associate professor at Dartmouth College, Janice M. McCabe, demonstrates through new research, another vital factor determining a student’s academic success that most of us tend to overlook: who they hang out with. “Surveying a range of different kinds of college friendships, Connecting in College details the fascinatingly complex ways students’ social and academic lives intertwine and how students attempt to balance the two in their pursuit of straight As, good times, or both.”

The book was featured recently in a National Public Radio story titled – How College Friendships May Affect Student Success.  It is a useful story that is worth considering from the point of view of college parents and families. The story reminds us to think about how these friendships might affect the path to graduation.

According to NPR, “Her conclusion? “It’s important to realize that friends can have academic as well as social benefits.” And the type of network you have matters a lot. McCabe found that college students’ networks fell into three basic types.

Tight-knitters” had a single cluster of friends who all knew each other and did seemingly everything together. They often described those friends as like “home” or like “family.” Their social network resembles a ball of yarn.”

Compartmentalizers” had between two and four unrelated clusters of friends (Read More...)

The Critical Voice of Parents in Education

Authored by Tiffany Taber

Ed Home Room

Parents are critical assets in education. Parents can be a voice for high expectations for children and for supporting educators in creating schools where all children receive what they need to succeed. An excellent education is every child’s civil right; and while our nation has made great strides—with a record high school graduation rate and college enrollment at all-time highs—we have much further to go to ensure that every child has equal opportunity to learn.

Parents can play a key role in demanding the world-class education that their children deserve. But, for many parents and families, it can be an uncertain task determining the best ways to support their children or the right questions to ask to ensure their children are learning and growing.

That’s why, today, speaking from the perspective of a father of two young children, Secretary Arne Duncan described a set of educational rights that should belong to every family in America in a speech at the National PTA Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. This set of three foundational family rights can unite everyone who works to ensure that students are prepared to thrive in school and in life. These rights follow the educational journey of a student—from access to quality preschool; to engagement in safe, well-resourced elementary and secondary schools that hold all students to high standards; to access to an affordable, quality college degree. (Read More...)

#TalkToMe: Connecting with Parents in the Digital Age

Authored by Kelsey Handelman Student, Designer, Architect and Writer

For a college student, I am weirdly close to my parents. We have a group-text that gets more attention than Donald Trump’s twitter, and we Facetime at least twice a week. Everyday we check in with each other. The conversations range from hour-long phone calls to simple emoji-filled messages, but we always keep an open line of communication. Some people, especially guys, get a little uncomfortable with our tight-knit relationship... turns out talking about all of the things you and your dad have in common isn’t ideal talk for a first date. Read More...

Parents: Help or Hindrance?

A study finds that, contrary to popular belief, significant parental involvement in students' college life isn't always a bad thing.

Authored by Allie Grasgreen

PHOENIX -- Parents are getting a bad rap.

So say researchers who studied the relationship between parental involvement and their children's development as college students over a four-year period -- and found that students whose parents were significantly involved in their lives did not have their progress hindered. The researchers presented their findings here this month at the annual convention of NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. Read More...