More and more research is showing a growing number of post-secondary students having significant challenges with symptoms of anxiety and depression, an unhealthy level of a need for constant validation, and higher rates of parental involvement. More and more college freshman, seniors, and even graduate students are having their parents intervene in matters of their grades, work load, residential issues, and diet restrictions. Some colleges are now reporting that parents are getting involved with their 20-something’s graduate admissions process by showing up on campus or calling admission officers to put in high levels of praise (Psychology Today, 2014). Post-secondary institutions are scrambling – wondering first, what is going on, and second, how can they manage and meet all of their struggling students’ needs?
Some say this generation is the most overprotected generation since researchers began recording and studying such things (College Parents of America, 2015). The term “Helicopter Parents” is being used more and more and has even become its own phenomenon. This style of parenting, over parenting, is causing real harm among our youth, our future. So why is caring so much causing such detriment?
Children from a young age begin to develop the skills of being able to problem solve. They need to feel confident in how they handle and manage situations as well as their emotions. This fosters a healthy ability to regulate emotions, so that they aren’t over reacting all of the time. If there is a barrier to this development – a developmental disability, a mental health issue, an environmental challenge, and/or over parenting – the child will not develop the skills necessary to build that confidence within themselves for their own self reliance. Yep, I said it. Too much parenting can stunt development.
Parents who are over parenting aren’t doing so maliciously, obviously. They love and adore their children. But it is now coming with a heavy price tag. Anxiety and depression are on the rise more than ever. Parents will argue that they are over parenting for their child’s well-being, but the opposite effect is happening. Too much emotional involvement can also manifest criticism by parents and will inhibit the child’s sense of independence and personal growth (Psychology Today, 2014).
There are also parents who just cannot handle their child having negative experiences. Potential failures and negative interactions with peers are probably the two most occurring situations that facilitate over parenting. It’s my opinion that parents are projecting their own feelings toward their children’s situations. This causes a level of panic and fear and a need to intervene. When we experience a sense of discomfort, emotionally, and don’t have the skills to cope, everyday situations can become extremely overwhelming. Maladaptive patterns of coping begin to develop so that we can immediately avoid this sense of discomfort, and more often than not it becomes a pattern of avoidance.
We have to begin to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable, but most importantly, we have to help our kids get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. Now more than ever.
Affirming “Helicopter Parents”: Redefining the Title. College Parents of America (www.collegeparents.org), 2015
Marano, H. (2014, January 31). Helicopter Parents – Its Worse Than You Think. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/nation-wimps/201401/helicopter-parenting-its-worse-you-think