Your 18th birthday is the day you officially transition from adolescence into adulthood. It’s also usually around the age when you head off to college and become independent and self-reliant. This means that your parents are no longer in control of the four “w’s” of your life: where you’re going, who you’re going with, why you’re going and when you’re coming home. The chance to control your own future is a right that comes with adulthood.
Unfortunately, when you have overprotective, "helicopter" parents, adulthood doesn’t mean the same to you as it does to others.
If you’re a college student with strict parents, you can understand why, in 2012, Aubrey Ireland was granted a restraining order from her parents after telling the court that she felt like “a dog with a collar on.” Her parents felt the need to plant a tracking device on her computer and cell phone, and surprise her with unannounced visits while she was away at college.
According to Karl Gude, in an article he wrote for The Huffington Post, “Over-involved parents view their children as career-impaired drunk drivers who are going to steer their lives straight into the Breakdown Ditch of Failure.”
These parents attempt to force their dreams onto their children by threatening to revoke money, love or respect if their kids don’t follow the life they mapped out for them. If you have a parent that’s a little (or very) controlling, you understand that your life doesn’t feel like your own anymore.
Below are a few ways you can regain control of your life without sacrificing financial help from your parents or your relationship with them.
1. Try the “If I ___, then you have to ___” Compromise: Here’s the thing: it might be hard to believe, but your overprotective parents are trying. As terrible as it is having your parents shove their ideals down your throat, you need to trust that they have the best intentions in mind. Your parents truly want you to be successful in college and, to them, that means intervening in every situation. Instead of attempting to block them completely out of your life, meet them halfway.
During my senior year of high school, my parents decided to tell me that I wasn’t allowed to leave home to attend a four-year university. Even after months of arguing, I realized that I couldn’t do anything about this rule, so I decided to compromise with my parents. We agreed that if I attended community college for two years, I was allowed to transfer to any university I desired.
The bottom line: prove to them that you’re trying just as much as they are.
2. Think Like Your Parents: After my parents caught me on a date with a boy they did not approve of, leaving the house became a difficult task for me. Since I live at home with my parents while taking classes at community college, my dad felt the need to call me every 30 minutes until I got home to make sure I wasn’t hanging out with any guys. I decided that if I didn’t answer my phone, my dad would eventually leave me alone. However, every time I ignored my dad, the more suspicious he became by coming up with worst-case scenarios in his head.
Finally, my mother told me that to deal with a psycho parent, you have to think like a psycho parent. Soon enough I realized that since I spent more time with my friends than my family, my dad was tired of not seeing me at home. This caused him to overreact when I stayed out late. So, I decided to space out the days I spent with my friends and spend more time with my dad, which helped calm his overprotective urges.
3. Don’t Mess Up: Convincing your parents that you’re a responsible adult means acting like a responsible adult. Prove to them that you know what you’re doing while in college. Don’t give them any reason to assume that you’re going to steer your life into a ditch of failure and regret. Give your parents what they want: try hard in school, don’t get yourself into trouble and figure out a plan for your own future, so your parents don’t feel like they need to.
4. Make Your Own Money: Try not to be too financially reliant on your parents. Of course, they're your parents, and if they want to help you with tuition, rent and other college costs, that's great! But, if your parents tend to hold money over your head to get you to do what they want, it's time to start thinking of ways to make your own money. If you need extra cash for shopping or going out, resist asking your parents. Instead, look into a part-time job or work-study program.
5. Prove To Them That Your Career Choice Matters: Some helicopter parents don’t believe that money comes from happiness. They don’t care that your major makes you happy; they care if it makes you money.
I have a typical Persian family. For those who don’t know what that entails, it means that my career choices are limited to: doctor, lawyer or pharmacist. When I told them that I was planning on majoring in journalism, they actually thought I was joking. But eventually, they noticed that I had a natural talent for writing, and once they realized that my English writing abilities are brag worthy to their friends, they became used to the idea of allowing their child to pursue her dreams.
Once your parents recognize that you have a true talent, they’ll start believing that you’ll be successful in doing what you love. Prove to your parents that there are jobs in your field and that you’re capable of getting one by taking on internships, freelancing or joining student organizations and taking on projects that relate to your career aspirations.
6. Take Control: Somtimes, overprotective parents are a result of children who allow their parents to helicopter them.
Paul Rassmussen also wrote a blog for The Huffington Post, describing a situation in which a father came into his class to convince him to let the father’s daughter rewrite a midterm paper that she did badly on. Once Rassmussen read the rewritten paper, he realized that the daughter clearly allowed her father to write the paper for her.
A helicopter parent who is always standing beside you, waiting to catch you when you fall can be extremely harmful to your educational and professional growth. Force your parents into getting used to the idea of letting you take control of your own life. Don’t let your parents write your papers or resumes for you, and don't cry to them every single time you hit a bump in the road. Sure, turn to them for advice or support, but don't ask them to fix your problems for you. You’ll never learn how to stand on your own if you never fall.
7. Seek Help from Others if Your Parents are Out of Control: If you've done all you can and your parents still aren't easing up on you, perhaps it's time you look to other people for assistance. Try reaching out to close family members (like a grandparent, aunt, sibling, etc.) to see if they can talk to your parents for you. Or, perhaps you and your parents should try talking to a family counselor.
If your situation is as severe as Ireland's, turn to your school for help. She was attending the University of Cincinnati, and when her parents stopped footing the tuition bill because she cut off contact with them, the university gave her a scholarship. The school also hired security guards to keep Ireland's parents out of their daughter's school performances.
And as a last resort: see what your legal options are. If your parents are invading your privacy or stalking you, a judge might be willing to hear your case.