Coping skills are not for certain people. It is not a mental illness only thing. We all need coping skills, because the world is not a helicopter parent. The world will not protect you, nor will people. I find it interesting that diagnoses are higher than ever, coping skills seem in short supply, and there is a pervasive mindset of protecting kids from everything. It’s impossible and unrealistic. It sets the child up to not know how the real world is; it sets the parents up to be imbalanced and unhealthy.
I have always believed that my job as a parent is to provide my child the tools they need to thrive. Ultimately, they are going to choose how to live their lives, and I will not be there for them every step of the way. I view parenting as teaching kids about balance. A lot of moms I know restrict a lot from their kids – no sugar, no TV, etc. and I think that is equally unhealthy. I teach my kids about sometimes, moderation, good choices. If you make the choices for the child, or eliminate everything, what will happen when they are out of your sight?
When the child becomes school age, you are not there 8+ hours/day. A large problem I see with helicopter parenting is the child will have unrealistic expectations of themselves and the world. By focusing so much attention on the child, they will have trouble adapting to the 1 to many structure of school, and if you are constantly focusing on stimulating the child, how do they handle boredom? If you become heavily dependent on screens for learning and entertainment, how do they handle the classroom?
I look at school and I see a lot of problems too. The amount of ADHD diagnoses are incredible. it seems we, as a society, are more interested in medicating every deviation from “norm” versus accommodating the child. I think most children struggle with sitting for hours at a time, plus they come home and need to do homework. There’s a massive focus on ensuring kids are “prepared” for the next grade, lots of parents focus on getting kids ahead of the curve by teaching them reading, etc. ahead of their age level. It seems society, in large part, has forgotten to let children be children. I don’t think their minds are handling it well.
I think a large part of this “epidemic” stems from overstimulating the shit out of kids constantly. Everywhere I look, I see a kid staring at blinking lights on a screen. I have heard how much safer it is to let Johnny play on the iPad, because “it’s a crazy world out there”. There’s also “the games are educational, so it’s good for him!” Oh come on. You know what’s good for a kid? Fresh air, sunshine, and playing. I believe in treating my children like tiny adults, in that, appropriate for their age, I expect independence/autonomy/responsibility, I explain/answer their questions, and I encourage them to find the things that make them happy. They hear “I am your mother not a cruise director, go figure out something to do” pretty regularly from me.
I find the more my kids are able to play and explore, the better they are able to manage themselves emotionally. They all do better if they find their own skills, versus me setting up some sort of structured blah for them. They’re like me, I don’t want to be told what to do either. If you give your children everything, what do they learn to do for themselves? Creativity is the most important outlet kids have – especially for emotions and personal development. You cannot tell a kid to be a writer or a painter, they must find it for themselves.
In essence, a helicopter parent robs their child of their childhood by placing their worries upon their child. Children are highly empathetic, so they will pick up on the parents’ neuroses without having developed good coping skills to manage. The child is learning early on that happiness is external, not internal. All children learn by experiential play and independence, and plopping them in front of a screen due to stranger danger or in the hopes of making a genius is not going to help.
This mindset lacks critical thinking, which is a skill desperately needed for all stages of development. The focus is more on results with no evaluation of opportunity cost. By eliminating xyz, you prevent a risk, but you have lost a lot of positive experiences. In the time Johnny spends learning to read at the age of two, he might not be learning fine motor controls or the joys of rolling around in grass. As Dr. Seuss famously said, “It’s fun to have fun, but you gotta know how.” How do kids know how to have fun if they’re constantly being told to get ready for x, stay away from y, and sit down/shut up? It seems only natural that kids struggle nowadays, because they are children being expected to contend with adult neuroses. All the helicopter parenting in the world is also not going to prevent a child from having a mental health issues. If anything, it may exacerbate the issue.
To be continued…