03 March 2013

The Negative Consequences of being a Helicopter Parent

NOTE:  The following is not to be considered as legal advice.  Please see an attorney who is licensed by the Florida Bar (or the bar in your own state) if you need legal advice; most attorneys will give you a consultation regarding your legal issue from a half hour to an hour for a small or no fee.

It's March already, and in another three months high school graduation ceremonies will be here for you parents out there that are excited about seeing your child graduate from high school.  After high school graduation, it's off to college for freshman year.

It's amazing to see twelve years of your child's education fly by so fast from the day your child started Kindergarten.  Then elementary school.  Then middle school.  And then the four years of high school leading up to that big day for your child.

However, do you know what happens when your child turns 18 years old?  Here in Florida, turning 18 is considered reaching the age of majority, or in other words, becoming an adult.  As such, the legal landscape changes for your child once he or she turns 18 such as:

1.  The right to register to vote.
2.  The requirement to register for Selective Service, if male.
3.  The ability to enter into contracts.
4.  The right to sue and be sued.
5.  Any criminal offenses are tried in adult court.
6.  The right to choose where one is employed.
7.  The right to manage property.
8.  No parental consent needed for a Florida driver's license.
9.  The right to make his or her own decisions.

And the list goes on and on...

However, there is one minor detail which someone who turns 18 does not get yet, and that is the right to purchase alcoholic beverages.  That does not come until 21.

With that said, there is a growing phenomenon that has been going around involving parents whose children are in college, and that is being a helicopter parent.  I know, you as a parent are worried about your child's welfare now that he or she is in college, but once your child becomes a legal adult what you can do is very limited.

In fact, there is a negative consequence of being a helicopter parent:  Being the recipient of a restraining order which can have potentially devastating effects on your future.  Just ask the parents of Aubrey Ireland, who is attending the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, according to this Huffington Post article I found.

The negative effects of being on the receiving end of a restraining order:

1.  Inability to own or possess firearms and/or ammunition.
2.  Loss of employment opportunities.
3.  Losing your job, especially if the person who got a restraining order against you is your co-worker at the office.

And the list goes on and on...

However, if your child has special needs and you are worried about your child's future once he or she turns 18, the only way you can be involved in your child's affairs as far as the legal world is involved is to petition the Probate Court for guardianship of your child once he or she turns 18.  However, the procedures are difficult when guardianship involves someone very young as opposed to someone who is elderly (which is why our guardianship laws are not equal) and an attorney - preferably an attorney who has Florida Bar certification in Probate Law - is required, which can run into the thousands of dollars.  Then again, a total stranger working as a professional guardian can step in and exploit a loophole, finding a background issue with the parents in order to convince the court that the parents are not fit to be the proposed guardian.

So, in short:

It's normal to worry about your children when they are off to college.  However, there are limits as to what you can do for your children as far as parental involvement is concerned.  Don't let what happened to Aubrey Ireland's parents happen to you.

Besides, there is no need to be a helicopter parent.  Your child is now an adult, and there is a time when you have to let go.

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