Helicopter Parents Following Children into Their 20s?

helicopter parents

My Parents are Still Hovering! When does this Helicopter Parenting stop?

Boy oh Boy. Anytime I post something on helicopter parenting, the comment box goes nuts. Usually those who are commenting are the children themselves—the ones trying to get out from under their parents’ thumbs when it comes to school, new situations, going out, dating, and more. But get this—these children are hardly children anymore—they’re in their late teens, their 20s, or their 30s! When does this helicopter parenting stop?

Young adults are being treated like they’re still children:

Like Dee:

I am 18 years old, and I don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t have a license and I don’t have a job. I am totally dependent on my parents. My dad is extremely overprotective. Sometimes I feel that he is deliberately holding me back from getting my license, because he hates it when I go out of the house and he prefers driving me to places himself. He wouldn’t let me ride with my friend who already has hers. Lately I feel that I would rather not go out at all than have him drive me everywhere, because he still makes me feel guilty for going out, as if I am letting him down or betraying him. –Dee

Or Christina–

I think I’m also a child of a pathologically overprotective parent. I am, however, in my early 20s. I live with my mother as my parents are divorced and things have got really bad lately. My sister and I are treated like 13 year olds. When we go out our mother calls us every 30 minutes to check up on us. Recently I had 96 missed calls on my cell when I didn’t reply. She has also threatened to send the police to the club we go to and has slapped and shouted at a guy (friend) who brought my sister and I home. Could you please give some suggestions about what we should do? We have already tried talking but she doesn’t want to understand. She thinks that what she does is right. –Christina

Of course, if I called my daughter 96 times and she didn’t answer, I would probably be panicked too. But I think there are 2 main problems here: (1) Parents wanting to know their children are safe and (2) the need for adult children to individuate and separate from their parents. It’s a control issue—but probably enforced out of live (not that love makes it any better or easier to deal with). There is also likely a trust issue– either parents are not trusting their children or they are not trusting who their children are with at any given time. Some of this we can understand— we want our children to be safe, warm, dry, happy, and loved– but some of it seems excessive. Some of it can be helpful— and some, detrimental.

Where it gets complicated is the living situation and in Dee’s situation, the lack of good transportation. The young adults still live in their parents’ house so the parents have made the assumption that the rules and the level of protection stay the same. Of course, this is a ridiculous idea. Children grow and change into adults and therefore, rules must change as well. Rules still should apply—but they should be commensurate with the developmental age of the people who live there. We all have rules—even spouses have rules for one another—even if they are unspoken (i.e. call when you’ll be late, don’t track mud into the house, clean up your own mess). Clearly everyone in the household should be respectful of one another and that means both giving people space and freedom and being respectful of feelings and the need to know that everyone is safe.

There are consequences of helicopter parenting. As we know from previous articles, helicopter parenting can lead to:
(1) Undermining children’s confidence

(2) Instilling fear of failure

(3) Stunting growth and development

(4) Raising anxiety levels

(5) Anger and resentment

But even our commentors had some consequences to add. Be forewarned—it’s not pretty.

Complete breaking of the ties:

I am an adopted child, and my adoptive mother is.. er was… extremely over-protective. We even lived in a very small town simply so she knew where we were at all times. Thankfully, I like to say that I”m “Grown-up”. I may only be 21 years old, but I am married, have two children, and even own my own home! Sadly, I’ve had to cut most of my ties with my parents, simply so I could live my life, the way I wanted to. Although it hurts to know that I’ve hurt them, the feeling of being my own person, after the 13 years I lived with them, for the first time! –Mikki

Stunted Growth, rebellion, frustration:

Well as I read over on what you wrote and what the topic points out I have to agree fully that they do exist. I’d say I might be the youngest person whose commented on this site. Truth be told I’m only a 14year old girl. I don’t really like the fact that there are overprotective parents out there, but I do know that they could be doing this because they love us and want to see us grow up in a safe environment. Though of course nothing goes as exactly planned. I have over protective parents and they both can be pretty annoying at times. I also have an older sister who’s about 20 years old and they won’t even let her date guys! /=o They said to me that I can’t date until I’m 24 and that’s only on a double date. Though the thing that really backfires on parents who are overprotective is that the child might feel a lack of faith from the parents, or it might cause a spark of rebellion in the child causing the child or teen to commit crimes or go to drugs and friends for relief. For me, well I just look up sites on the internet to see what the professionals have to say about this topic. I mean I’m not really allowed to go outside my own house unless it something that’s related with school or church. So to put this in a simple sentence. I got to the internet or television to blow off steam, but right now I really want to at least go out and exercise. Well thats about it. Man I feel better after writing this!

Parents—we must move forward to meet our children where they are. As they grow, new rules must develop and change with them. We don’t want to push our children so far away that they find it unpleasant to spend time with us or talk to us! We also don’t want our adult children to believe they are incapable of taking care of themselves. You can still be a great parent without being a hyper-overprotective one.

I’d love to hear your comments on the topic. Let’s hammer this out. As previously discussed, I am planning to lead a teleconference on the topic as it’s become a very important and popular issue on our blog. Let me know of your interest through Facebook or here on our blog.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Separation Anxiety: Guidelines to Say Goodbye to Clingy Kids?

Separation anxiety for back to school?

Separation anxiety for back to school?

Dear Dr. Robyn,

I’m sure you hear a lot about separation anxiety around back to school time. It’s only July and I’m already dreading “back to school” because my child will be going to kindergarten.  With my first child, we had quite a time with getting him comfortable enough to go into his classroom and leave my side for a lot of the school year.  He’s what you call a “clingy kid.” Well, I wound up staying for way longer than I should. I’m sure I made some mistakes and I know this is classic separation anxiety.  Can you give me a quick was to say good-bye that we  can follow so we don’t make the same mistakes twice?

–Laura, Mom of Max and Julia, New Brunswick NJ

Thanks for your question, Laura!

I actually spoke about this with Parents Magazine in the July 2008 issue.  Separation anxiety is seen in many children to varying degrees.  It can come in the form of crying, whining, clinging, following, silence, withdrawal, or hiding behind a parent.

First, remember, that your daughter is not your son.  She may respond completely differently than you other child did in the same circumstance.  In this case, it’s important not to generalize and “pre-label” your daughter!

Second, there are some things you can do before school that can ease the transition.  Typically the problem of separation anxiety on the first days of school are two-fold—your child is uncomfortable being separated by you but she is also uncomfortable about what’s unfamiliar to her as well.

You can do something about that. Allow her to see her classroom, meet the teacher, and connect with some classmates before the first day of school.  Play in the school playground, walk the halls, and meet the principal.  Essentially, make the unfamiliar, familiar.  I talk more about these kinds of tips in my interview with www.education.com. I will notify our powerful parents when the articles come out.  In addition, I will be doing some tele-seminars on easing the transition back to school which I will let you know about shortly.

In addition, September’s Powerful Word of the month is courage– so get a jump on talking about courage in your household! Your Powerful Words school will help support these messages of courage as the instructors go through September’s Powerful Words curriculum.

Finally, if you are looking for a way to say good-bye without all the drama, please follow my ABCDE Goodbye Plan.  It’s simple and easy to remember—even though it’s sometimes hard to do!

Dr. Robyn Silverman’s ABCDE Goodbye to Separation Anxiety Plan:

(1) Be Affectionate—give a hug and a kiss, tell him how much you love him/her

(2) Be Brief– don’t linger because that will increase signs of separation anxiety

(3) Be Clear that you will be back and if you can, you can even tell them when (after the last school bell, when the clock says 3pm)

(4) Be Directive– “Go show your teacher what you brought from home!” “There’s your new friend, Emma—go say hello!” This gives your child something specific to do, gets her mind off the impending separation, and connects her with someone else in the room.

(5) And perhaps most importantly, EXIT. This doesn’t mean sneak out. You’ve said your goodbyes—wave- smile—and leave. Prolonging the inevitable makes the process harder for everyone.

In the mean time, you still have much of the summer to enjoy.  Talk positively about school and all the great things she will be able to do there.  And for your own sanity, talk positively to yourself—we all know the separation can be as hard on the parents as it is on the kids!

Best regards,

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Why Does My Child Keep Quitting?

Angry boyIs your child quitting everything they start? Need a Commitment Overhaul?

Here is a letter from a parent to Dr. Robyn Silverman asking about why her child keeps quitting his activities. What’s interfering with her child’s commitment level?

Dear Dr. Robyn,

I hate to admit it, but my child is a quitter.  Knowing the Powerful Word of the Month at our school this month is commitment, it seemed that now was the perfect time to ask what’s going on here.  I don’t want to raise a quitter.  Have any ideas on why a child quits everything they start?

–Jan K, Baltimore, MD

The question of commitment and quitting comes up every time our Powerful Words schools present Powerful Words like commitment, determination, attitude, or goal-setting.  As Powerful Parents, we want our children to show commitment and determination.  So what’s making them quit?

Children quit for all different reasons.  Some children feel bored while others feel overwhelmed.  Some children have unrealistic expectations that they are going to be performing the kind of martial arts, gymnastics, swimming, or other sport that they see “in the movies” or in the Olympics on the first day that they attend.  Other children see “today’s activity”  simply as another activity that they do—easily interchanged with football, basketball or dance lessons– so why stick with one thing?  Still other children feel invisible to the instructor, picked on, misunderstood or scared when they take class.

The first major reason for quitting is the instance of a curriculum-based clash. Simply put, when children feel overwhelmed or under-challenged, they will want to quit.  After all, when something is too difficult or too easy, it isn’t fun anymore! The over-challenged child may feel as though he cannot keep up, catch up, or otherwise progress at the pace that the other children in class are progressing.  The under-challenged child may feel uninterested, disinterested, or just plain bored.  You can determine this if your child would rather play with friends than go to class or fights you on practicing when they used to find it exciting to do so. Whatever it is, there is clearly a clash between the child’s learning level and the curriculum they’re learning at this time.  These children will surely start looking for other ways, whether it is in football, hockey, dance or marching band, to fill their time and hold their interest– sometimes, they just keep moving from activity to activity looking for something to hold their interest.  It’s important that we delve into this issue with our child because it’s easy enough to move our children to a different class, get them extra help, or have them take some extra classes to address this issue.

The second major reason for quitting is the case of the value-based clash. If you, as a parent, don’t value what the child is learning at their current activity,  the child will often sense it and want to quit.  For example, if you regard their current activity, like martial arts or gymnastics,  as “just another stop on the way between football and piano,” the child will too.  After all, a child will want to quit something if it has little or no perceived value to the parent.  Children tend to take their cues from their parents—so when Mom and Dad don’t care, neither will they.  As parents, we need to make sure to check our own attitude when determining why our children might be quitting.  If we can adjust our own behavior and attitude, our children will too.

The third major reason for quitting is the often elusive personal-based clash. When children or parents feel uncomfortable at an activity, uncomfortable around a coach or teacher, uncomfortable around another child or another parent who is there at the same time, or undervalued by staff, they will likely want to quit.  Perhaps there has been a misunderstanding or a miscommunication.  Boundaries may have been breached or buttons may have been pushed in some way.  Perhaps the most common personal clash is when the child perceives that the teacher or coach doesn’t “like him” or “care about him”.  It’s vital to find out if something happened between your child and another person in the class so that the issue can be addressed and any misunderstandings can be cleared up.

The fourth major reason for quitting is the instance of the situational-based clash. While the above reasons have a negative undertone causing a “falling away” or a “falling out,” situational clashes are due to an actual lack of money, resources, or ability to continue.  When families do not have the money to pay for lessons, the car to get their children to your class, or the person to bring the child to your school, they will likely need to quit.  There may have been a divorce or a death, a new job opportunity, and illness or a lay-off that caused this situation to arise. Schools and sports facilities are often very sorry to see these students leave, given that they would stay if they could.

Finally, the fifth major reason children might quit is…because they can! We want to make sure that children aren’t creating a pattern of quitting that is being supported by their parents.  Sometimes, we are just too overprotective or too easily swayed by our children’s attempts to get out of fulfilling their promises. While it is easier to have children quit something that making them stick it out til the end, children learn their patterns early.  If they see that they can quit without consequence, they will learn this as a fact and quit whatever feels uncomfortable, challenging, frustrating or boring to them as they develop and become teens and adults.  It may not seem like a big deal when they are 8 years old but it certainly becomes so when they become 18 or 28 years old! Set positive patterns now so that they learn commitment and the benefits of seeing goals and promises through to the end.

Make sure to ask questions rather than lecture.  Why do they want to quit?  Did anything happen in class? Are they bored? Overwhelmed? How do they feel about their friends in class? Their teachers? Is the curriculum too hard? Too easy?  And also, remember, to watch what you say and you do.  If you are quitting your activities, or someone else of influence in your home or family is doing so, children will learn volumes about the loop holes in commitment.  Take your cues from your child’s Powerful Words instructors this month and expand on what they are talking about in class with your children. Discuss it at the dinner table and in the car.  Tell stories about your own triumphs and how you stuck with something even when it was difficult. Talk about the importance of seeing the end and setting goals. And of course, set the precedent that your family always finishes what they start– everyone should have that “no quit, go-for-it attitude!” that helps each member to lead with commitment– and your children will surely learn to follow suit.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Dr. Robyn Silverman introduces the Powerful Word of the Month: Commitment