If I were to say I have an arch-nemesis, it would be the Helicopter Parent. We’ve all seen them, and if you are one of them, this will likely offend you. At the playground, I see them hovering to ensure Billy doesn’t scrape his knee or enjoy independent play. You can tell them on Facebook posts, with scare-mongering articles and notes they never let Billy out of their sight. You run in to them when you commit the heinous atrocity of attempting to allow kids to have sleepovers or even play “dates” (I hate that term, it just seems weird), because apparently every parent is now a child molester.
I don’t hate helicopter parents, but I do laugh at them. Everyone has their own parenting style, and I will never tell anyone how to do anything, but I do wish people would start thinking for themselves, versus keeping up with the jones’, Facebook, or parenting magazines. At some point, I wish people would step back and analyze risks and rewards, probability, and sheltering vs. nurturing. Parenting should be about what is best for parent and child, period.
It’s odd that parents are so hyper-vigilant, when most of us did not have helicopter parents growing up. I understand the news shows horror stories, but I also realize that Facebook/Internet/24-7 news channels did not exist when we were growing up. It seems odd there is so much focus on stranger danger and protecting your child. How can you protect your child from the rising rates of suicide/anxiety/depression/ADHD/etc? My pragmatic mind has to chuckle at the focus of kidnapping, etc. but what will hovering over Billy do to “stop” his brain from being his brain?
As far back as I can remember, I struggled with anxiety and depression. I remember stomach aches about grades, I was suicidal from 8th grade on, and I started cutting in 8th grade. My mom and I had a pretty long convo the other day about the issues I had. 20 years ago, people did not handle anything the way they do now, it seems. The attitude, by and large, was that therapy was “weird” ADHD, bipolar, PTSD were not commonly used terms. Suicide was always a concern; I remember a lot of discussion around teen suicide, eating disorders, and of course, drug use/DARE.
For awhile, I was angry at my parents for not getting me help, but I’ve realized that it is very difficult, as a parent, to pinpoint a child struggling and a child being a child. I am the oldest, so my parents had no clue what “normal” teenage behavior is. Most articles, etc. with signs to be on the lookout for – slipping grades, withdrawal from activities were not me. I did cut myself, and when my parents saw, they put me in therapy. They had no idea how therapy works, and when I began arguing I did not want it or need it, they listened to me. Only recently has it dawned on me how hard this all is for my mom and dad. Not only are they watching their daughter struggle, but they know their grandkids are watching to. I think every parents’ worst nightmare is having their child suffer, which I understand drives the helicopters to be what they are.
No amount of supervision, etc. would have changed things for me. If anything, my parents trusting me/pushing me to go out and be a kid, be independent, etc. helped me tremendously, because that freedom is where I found my coping skills. My mother is a voracious reader, and she urged me along that path. I’d often be found in my bed lost in a book. When I was being teased at school, I learned to shut the bullies out by sticking my nose in a Stephen King novel. I think it’s cool that my mom would let me read SK in 7th grade. I also found music, which I immersed myself in constantly. I would never say a helicopter parent does not have good intentions, but I do think they are hampering, not helping their kids.
My parents were different with me than my siblings, probably because I seemed reliable and levelheaded. I always had excellent grades and rarely gave them cause for concern. My parents always encouraged me, had specific rules, and expected me to give my best to everything I did. They did not hover over me though. They tried to help me when they noticed specific signs that I was not okay – smashing my head on the wall, cutting, purging – but there is not really a manual on parenting. My anger towards them was unjustified, I now realize. I hid most of my symptoms; if they had read my journal, maybe they would have had some clues At the same time, it’s not entirely fair to even say I hid them. How is a child supposed to know if their brain is right or wrong? How are parents supposed to know?
This is the problem I have with helicopters. Their behavior provides the illusion of control. Their parenting style is not protective; it’s actually limiting and restrictive. Children learn through play and independence. Their sense of creativity, imagination, and the world come through their interactions. If, every time they look, Mommy is right there to tend to them or keep them away from danger, they will not learn. We all know the hot stove analogy, and it’s accurate. If kids are prevented from risks, exploration, and growth, they will become adults who are adverse to them as well. They will also be sorely short on coping skills.
To be continued….