A few quick reactions to this great article “Kids of Helicopter Parents Are Sputtering Out” by Julie Lythcott-Haims in Slate.
Don’t let the title fool you, I think this is a must read for parents of toddlers and teens and everyone inbetween.
1) It highlights the sad irony that in their efforts to not neglect their children helicopter parents may end up neglecting to equip their children to handle decisions, problem-solve, take responsibility; in protecting them from pain and failure they set them up for it.
2) I’d heard “enabling” defined as doing for someone what they can do for themselves before.
The second point by author Madeline Levine cited in the article, that it can be psychologically harmful to do something that the kids can almost do themselves, really hit me.
That is so good!
The idea to not just allow kids to do what they can certainly do and succeed in but allow kids to do and attempt things where success isn’t guaranteed, where they might come up short or even fail. So much can be learned, they find out what they are capable of, it may even inspire them to grow and their parents can coach and walk them through the experiences. That’s so much better than being shielded from failure and the feelings of disappointment, rejection, confusion and pain as a young child and then being off to college and facing those for the first time in a new unfamiliar environ.
3) I really like this article because it won’t just help parents. Many young adults in Portland are struggling, struggling with anxiety and depression, struggling with the effects of helicopter parenting. I’m looking forward to reading the book Raising Adults because so much of counseling is helping young adults mature and come to terms with their family of origin and their identity. This article will resonate with a lot of young adults trying to understand why they are struggling so much. I suspect the book may help my clients explore their family of origin and give us ideas for treatment planning, exploration, goal setting, journaling and homework.
They have to essentially re-parent themselves. If the a parents’ agenda, desires, interests, image to protect, expectations, hopes and dreams always dictated what you did and experienced it’s difficult to differentiate from them. It’s hard to separate from your parents’ identity when you aren’t sure of your own.
4) It’s also interesting how the symptoms of anxiety and depression of kids with helicopter parents are similar to the symptoms of anxiety and depression in kids who were neglected by absent, disengaged, addicted or narcissistic parents. Just maybe different flavors of anxiety and depression.
With a neglected person, they may struggle with feeling insignificant, invisible, unloved.
With an over-parented kid they may not struggle with feeling unimportant, they may struggle with feeling too important, feeling pressured to perform, struggle with what they do never being good enough, with feeling loved only for what they do. Both types may struggle with the fear of failure or on the other hand apathy and learned helplessness. They may not fear failure because they are always shielded from the consequences.
5) I’m sure the author means means “Raising Adults” in the positive sense (and again I’m looking forward to reading the book) but this article brought up a challenge that I think parents and kids face today in the attempt to raise adults. In the attempts to raise kids to be successful, to be “special”, to “stand out”, more and more families are taking on adult sized to-do lists and adult sized schedules and their kids are getting crushed by the stress and burden of it. I think their parents are too.
6) One of the biggest helps Julie and I have had in the area of helicopter parenting and letting go is two things sending kids to summer camp and also the HeartLife homeschool co-op lead by Kevin Brusett.
The last 3-4 weeks of the school year the HeartLife school does school on the road, taking trips to the SouthWest, the South (down to Florida and Back)’ the East Coast or Canada and Europe. Nothing like sending your kids away for weeks to help you both deal with your control issues.
HeartLife has been an amazing experience and community for my two oldest kids to be a part of. I’ll blog more about it and hopefully talk about it on my podcast in the future.
They are currently preparing for the next school year, if you are thinking of homeschooling this Fall and would like to learn more, contact Kevin or visit their site.