The Employer Perspective on Parents and Interns

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Support and Empower, but don’t “Helicopter”

Surely you’ve heard about “Helicopter Parents” or “Velcro Parents” – those parents who “hover” over their children and guide them through their lives, deeply involved at every step.  According to Wikipedia, a Helicopter Parent is “a parent who pays extremely close attention to his or her child’s experiences and problems. These parents rush to prevent any harm or failure from befalling their children and won’t let them learn from their own mistakes, sometimes even contrary to the children's wishes. They are so named because, like helicopters, they hover closely overhead, rarely out of reach of their child.”  Are you one of these?

Overzealous helicopter parents can be detrimental to a student intern in the professional world.  Internships are WORK!  They are often a first job for many students.  Therefore, employers expect a certain level of critical thinking, helpful input, and independence from their interns.  They most certainly don’t expect a student to know everything, as an internship is also supposed to be a learning experience.  But, they want and need hard-working thinkers who possess confidence, problem-solving, and decision-making skills.  If parents make every decision and solve every problem for them, students can lack these basic skills that employers value.

Because of the negative associations with the helicopter parent phenomenon, it’s advised that parents learn to let go and allow their children be independent. Especially in professional settings, it’s been anecdotally noted that over-involved parents may actually hurt their child’s chances at employment or an internship – after all, it is the student that the employer is hiring, not the parent! 

To be most effective in supporting your college student as they begin their career, be engaged, but not over-involved.  Allow them to make their own decisions but be available to offer advice.  Give them tips and input to help them cope with challenges and tough decisions, without being overprotective or allowing them an easy out to avoid facing a challenge.  Think of it this way – if a young college-age adult cannot make simple basic life decisions on their own, how will they handle the complex decisions and critical thinking needed in on-the-job situations?

Aim to empower your child, and help them be better off to make their own decisions as an independent, highly-contributing professional young adult. 

Need more advice about your role as a parent of a college student? Visit our partner, College Parents of America, to participate in parents’ discussion forums and read blogs from parents and peers working through these same challenges.