Each fall, parents are encouraged to get involved in their students’ education. Sit at the table and help them with their math homework; ensure they are adjusted to school and extra-curricular activities. Often, these well-intended adults transform into “helicopter parents" by hovering over their child’s lives, always prepared to swoop in and rescue them.
This type of parenting can lead to dependency, low ambition and anxiety among children. When you finish your student’s science project or write his college essay, you risk fostering a dependency that will cripple your child as an adult.
Anxious Parents Breed Nervous Students
Dr. Portteus, a local child and adult psychiatrist, has witnessed the effects of over-involved parents. “There is a fine line between wanting to be engaged and nurturing and hovering and smothering. Hovering is driven by anxiety in parents, which is conveyed to the kids,” he explained. “Children can also feel resentment toward their parents.”
In affluent areas, helicopter parents are common and often accepted. However, that makes them no less harmful to children’s well being. Dr. Portteus said, "We have parents in the Park Cities who want to shield their kids from the consequences of a bad grade or a punishment. But that affects their character building and problem solving skills. We are not creating the grit and self-reliance for children to be able to thrive.”
Over-involvement Fosters A Fear Of Failure
Over-involvement doesn’t begin when a student starts school or sports – it’s established when a child is born. When you tell a kid that anything is possible, and then push them to excel, he may develop a fear of failure. This phobia is common among millennials, as greatness has been engrained in them since childhood.
Tim Elmore, founder and president of a nonprofit called Growing Leaders, said, “These well-intentioned messages of 'you're special' have come back to haunt us. We are consumed with protecting them instead of preparing them for the future. We haven't let them fall, fail and fear. The problem is that if they don't take risks early on like climbing the monkey bars and possibly falling off, they are fearful of every new endeavor at age 29."
Don’t Miss The Signs Of Being A Helicopter Parent
Children may not overtly tell their parents that they feel pressured, especially if they feel desperate to please them. Dr. Portteus said, “If a child is seeking a lot of parental reassurance, that might be an indicator.”
Another warning sign is a child’s inability to do things for himself. Dr. Portteus has concluded it’s common for children to feel helpless if they’ve been handed everything. He said, “I often see successful families with children who are not equipped. It’s best not to think of the moment, but the overall development of your child. Think about what kind of adult you want to raise.”
Over-controlling Parents Can Cause Depression Among College Students
When helicopter parents try to control a college student’s life, it can cause severe damage. At this stage, children crave freedom and autonomy, and undermining this natural desire can cause depression, anxiety and rebellion among college students.
Dr. Portteus said, “I see a lot of college students who have not launched well into young adulthood. They’ve failed in keeping up with work or managing their lives, and that can be a consequence of over-involved parents.”
With college students, a feeling of failure often leads to depression and extreme anxiety about beginning a career. In order to be successful, college-aged students must realize that they are in control of their lives and future careers, even if they are financially dependent on their parents. And parents must understand the pressures current students face, even without additional stress from loved ones.
“If a parent is managing too much in high school or college, that does not equip them for life,” Dr. Portteus summarized. He recommends listening to your children to determine the amount of involvement he needs.
“Every child has different needs and temperament,” Dr. Portteus said. “Some children may need more support, and others thrive with less.”