View from the helicopter

Susan Lof­fredo began coun­seling NU stu­dents well before the iPhone was invented and owns socks that are older than the class of 2013.

Loffredo, Susan photo

Susan’s incred­ibly well-​​cared for family

Are you a heli­copter parent?  Or does one of your par­ents fit the descrip­tion? Well, I myself have been known to hover, and so I under­stand how tempting it can be for par­ents to swoop in to fix things and how easy it can be for stu­dents who have a com­bi­na­tion guardian angel/​personal assis­tant standing by. That kind of TLC even sounds tempting to me, but then again, I already know how to do every­thing for myself.

And there’s the problem.  I have two daugh­ters:  a new col­lege freshman and a young pro­fes­sional who lives in another city.  If anyone said that I was not, shall we say, involved in their lives, my hus­band and the girls would be rolling on the floor laughing.  But I have come to appre­ciate when to hold ‘em and when to leave it to the professionals.

Image from cdn​.the​at​lanticwire​.com

As a career coun­selor, I have helped hun­dreds of young stu­dents make and carry out their deci­sions about majors, careers and jobs.  Often, stu­dents who are having trouble choosing a major tell me their par­ents have no sug­ges­tions, other than to do what makes them happy, and while they appre­ciate the sup­port, they would have liked some advice. Other times, par­ents offer advice that is out of date or ill advised.  For example, one student’s parent sug­gested using a fic­tional job offer for leverage in a salary nego­ti­a­tion.  The take­away?  Par­ents know what their chil­dren are good at and where they might excel; sharing that can be helpful.  Advising on mat­ters that are not their exper­tise, not so much.

As a career expert, I was not con­cerned when my older daughter entered col­lege thinking she would be pre-​​med, shifted to PR and finally decided on law. My only coaching was to encourage her to work with her career advisor on finding intern­ships to help her decide.  Like­wise, I refrained from coun­seling my younger daughter into a choice of major, except to tell her what I think she’s good at before she met with her aca­d­emic advisor.

We career, co-​​op, and aca­d­emic advi­sors want to see our stu­dents suc­ceed and we know how to help them.  Par­ents who encourage their chil­dren to take full advan­tage of these pro­fes­sionals and then get out of the way are doing the best they can for their child.  It’s not easy, but if I can do it, just about anyone can.