You see them on the playgrounds, in school lunchrooms, and at the ball field every day: helicopter parents who hover over their child's every move. They have snacks and an extra sweater. They've spoken to their son's teacher about the latest assignment, and they're asking the coach for more play time for their daughter. Nobody ever admits to being a helicopter parent, but we all know one or two.
Time magazine defined helicopter parenting as "over-involved habits such as solving children's problems and making important decisions for them." The article was referring to parents who handle these tasks for their college-aged kids, but these patterns begin well before kids get to college.
In fact, when kids are very little, helicopter parenting is simply called parenting. You wouldn't expect an 18-month-old to know that stairs can be dangerous, so you follow her around while she walks to make sure she's safe. You wouldn't expect your 3-year-old to be handy with a knife, so you cut up his meat. You wouldn't expect your 6-year-old to know that it might be cold in the movie theater, so you bring along a sweater.
But it's when those patterns don't change as the child ages — and hopefully matures — that a problem begins to emerge. This infographic shows how helicopter parenting can progress from helping kids to taking over their lives.
College administrators are growing increasingly concerned about the number of students who struggle or drop out of school because they are depressed and overwhelmed. (Photo: Yellowbrick)
It's good to take care of our kids' needs when they're young, but if we never raise them to be self-sufficient adults, then we're doing them a disservice.
A 2011 study by researchers at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga found that college-aged children of helicopter parents are more likely to be medicated for anxiety and/or depression. And in a 2013 survey of college counseling center directors, 95 percent said the number of students with significant psychological problems is a growing concern on campus.
The children of helicopter parents never learn how to take care of themselves, whether it's choosing their own lunch, conferencing with a teacher, or grabbing a sweater for later in the day. So it's no wonder that they crash and burn when they get to college.
If can be a difficult pill to swallow, but parents need to realize that over-managing their child's life could actually cost kids their health and their future.