Why Parents Need Freshman Orientation More Than Freshmen

As silly as "Freshman Orientation for Parents" sounds, it's probably for the best. Lest you want a deadbeat adultescent moving back home after four years.

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As silly as "Freshman Orientation for Parents" sounds, it's probably for the best.  Lest you want a deadbeat adultescent moving back home after four years. "Faced with what a Syracuse University administrator calls 'the most over-involved generation of all time,' colleges across the country are increasingly focusing on parents who are struggling with the transition from high school to college," writes The Wall Street Journal's Sanette Tanaka. And there are numbers to back this up, Tanaka writes "More than 90 percent of colleges now offer some sort of programming for parents of incoming freshmen, and 31 percent of colleges have a parent office on campus, according to data collected by the National Orientation Directors Association in 2011."

Tanaka goes on to tell a tale of sobbing parents, and their woefully underprepared spawn (cooking ... what's that?) and how they're all learning the different lessons that being a college freshman brings. Colleges are devoting time in counseling and creating programs which teach parents how not to pick their children's majors, how not to organize their dorm rooms, and are even implementing a harsh-sounding 15-minute goodbye on that first day of orientation (your blogger's stone-faced mother let loose a stream of tears upon seeing his 10x10 freshman room and to her credit, only needed eight minutes to say goodbye after a $400 splurge at Bed Bath & Beyond). And it might seem silly for colleges to devote all that time, money, and planning to get parents to knock off their helicopter behavior. But really, they're doing all of us a favor.

If you recall, last month The New Yorker's Elizabeth Kolbert told us about this scary world of adultlescence--the generation of Americans who come back to the nest with their $200,000 diplomas in hand and swathed in the comfy blanket of parental-protected unemployment. And Kolbert explains that these scary creatures are actually products of ... you guessed it, the types of parents that Tanaka found: the kind that don't teach their children how to cook or do the laundry, the kind that start crying in July--the "good parents" who want to give their children the best lives ever.  Kolbert wrote:

Today’s parents are not just “helicopter parents,” a former school principal complains to  [Estroff Marano, author and editor-at-large for Psychology Today]. “They are a jet-powered turbo attack model.” Other educators gripe about “snowplow parents,” who try to clear every obstacle from their children’s paths. The products of all this hovering, meanwhile, worry that they may not be able to manage college in the absence of household help. According to research conducted by sociologists at Boston College, today’s incoming freshmen are less likely to be concerned about the rigors of higher education than "about how they will handle the logistics of everyday life."

When pressed with the idea of a funemployed adult-child, those college counseling programs don't sound that bad right? Well, those classes might also prevent parents from becoming the "rush"-obsessed mothers The New York Times' Abigail Sullivan Moore wrote about on July 16. If those classes work, this is the type of future they could avoid:

As rush grinds on, students often text their moms with frequent, sometimes tearful updates. “Drama Trauma Drama,” wrote one weary mother on a Greek chat forum. For some mothers, empathizing with the pain of peer rejection is excruciating.

“I lost six pounds that week,” recalls Julie Baselice, whose daughter Christina is now a Chi Omega at the University of Texas. “It was the most stressful experience of my life.” 

Do you really want to lose six pounds and have the most stressful experience of your life because your daughter was rushing Kappa Kappa Gamma and the only people who care are friends in an Internet forum? Or would you like your offspring to come back home and eat pizzas on your couch all day? No? Well, how do those orientation programs sound now?

Photo by: michaeljung via Shutterstock

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.