Letters about My Helicopter Parents: Part 2

helicopter parentDr. Robyn Silverman

We’re continuing our discussion about helicopter parents, overprotective parents who won’t let go and hover over the heads of their children, heading off potential challenge/risk or taking over their responsibilities even as they enter their teens and adult years. This is part 2– part 1 is here.

The questions for today are, how can we help parents to take a step back and allow children in their 20s to grow up and be self-reliant?  Should we? Are adult children in their 20s too young to “go it alone” in today’s world? Do you think parents are having a problem “backing off” these days and allowing children to make mistakes and take risks?  As a parent, how have you approached the “letting go” process? Are you helpful or a helicopter?

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Letter from 20-something, T.O

Hello I know the feeling and everything you say about these helicopter parents. I have two. But why is my mom…an Extremely Over Protective Parent, does she have the right to control my life? I thought we are all consider adults at 18 years old? I am now in my late 20’s.! I don’t know what to do anymore!!! She treats me and my older sister (who is in her early 30’s) like we’re 10 years old…!!
PLEASE HELP Its DRIVING ME UP THE WALL!!!! (T.O.)

Dr. Robyn responds:

Hello T.O.

I can tell that you’re very frustrated with your parents right now. They clearly care about you. Have you talked to them, in a very adult manner, about your concerns, wants, and needs As an adult? Do you live very close by? Do you have healthy boundaries with you parents?

As an adult, it’s very important that you talk to your parents and tell them how you feel and what you’d think would be healthier in your parent-adult child relationship. Be specific. Sometimes, when people don’t move away from home (for college or otherwise), there is a lack of shift in the relationship from between childhood and adulthood.

It’s past time. It may be a difficult conversation, but after all, you’re an adult, and you can handle it!

Certainly, be kind to your parents. The more adult, grateful, and kind you can be, the more they will see you as the independent adult you long to be.

Best regards,
Dr. Robyn

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Please provide with your comments and feedback for T.O and whomever else might be wondering what to do in similar circumstances.  Do you have helicopter parents?  Have you been able to overcome their over-protectiveness?  How?

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

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Letters to their Helicopter Parents from their Kids: 1st of Series

child writing to his helicopter parents

Dear Dr. Robyn: Letters about My Helicopter Parents

Dr. Robyn Silverman

This week, we’re concentrating on Helicopter Parents because of the number of questions and letters I’ve received on the topic lately from our readers. The letters in this series are all taken from the comments section of one of my most popular articles; “Overprotective Parents: Helpful of Harmful?”

Again, Helicopter Parents are mothers and fathers who hover closely over their children and swoop down to do things for their children (whether their sons and daughters want the help or not) to make things easier for their children, take away pain, or alleviate stress (even when it’s part of normal development and the experience of growing up).

It’s clear that we only want the best for our daughters and sons—at any age. Of course we do! However, it’s vital that as parents we don’t alienate our children or frustrate them into a frenzy because we want to love and protect them. There is a letting go process that we must allow so that children can stand on their own two feet and grow up to be responsible adults.

In the letters this week, you will see that these young adults and teen don’t know what to do but they are certainly fed up with being treated like children. Are you feeling the same way? Or are you the parent of a teen or young adult who you are scared to let go? Either way, please read below and comment. We need to talk about this if we’re going to get anywhere.

Featured Letter #1

Dear Dr. Robyn,

Reading this article (and others like it) has led me to believe that I am actually a child of so-called “helicopter parents”.

Honestly, debilitating is a good word for it. Annoying too. I mean, I’ve actually BEGGED my parents to let me do my own laundry, but was denied because “you cant cuz everyone’s laundry is done at once” blah blah blah. I could just do the whole load was my answer and to that I get “e-eh–nawww, thats not a good Idea!” ….

As you’ll see from my site, I’m an artist, and I actually think the reason I AM is because I gained a sense of freedom from it. How I found this site was cuz I NOW feel like my parents have took THAT away from me cuz for some reason they have a giant wall devoted to my artwork now….so it feels like its something they ENCOURAGED me to do….GAHH! I wan out of this house!!!

so yeah, I agree, debilitating is a good word for it

Dr. Robyn’s answer to Rob:

Hello Rob-

First, I’ve checked out your site and can see you are a very talented person! Congrats on your great work and finding your passion.

It can be frustrating when parents want to do so much. I can hear from what you’re saying, that they clearly love you and care for you– but you are feeling smothered.

Sometimes, we just throw up our hands and say “forget it” and cave in. However, other times, we need to take more action. Remember- The only person’s behavior you are in control of is your own.

You may want to call a meeting with you and your parents and express your feelings there. NICELY. Talk about how appreciative you are of their interest and their love, but you would like to do some things that make you feel more like a responsible man rather than a child….and here are a few things you would like to do– and then discuss them. They may not fully understand why you feel you want to do the laundry– or why you want to do other things similar to that. If you clearly and nicely tell them how you’re feeling and what you would like to do, they may just open their minds.

Because we aren’t in control of other people’s behaviors, you could make some changes on your own– for example, if your parents won’t let you do your laundry in your house, take it to a laundry facility and do it there. However, I would take the “talking approach” first– sitting down with your parents and having a responsible, clear conversation– before doing this type of thing because it could come off as passive aggressive otherwise.

Hmmm. As far as the art goes– I don’t know that you’ll win that debate. The reason why? They’re proud of you. They may do it in an over-the-top way but many parents don’t acknowledge their children talents at all so at least in that sense, if you step back for a minute, you’ll see that you’re lucky. I hear you that it’s annoying– but I probably wouldn’t fight for less “pride” when it comes to your art work, and instead, focus on the other things that are bothering you when you speak to your parents. It seems that the “art wall” is really just adding fuel to the fire– but not what’s causing the fire itself. Make sense?

Let us know when you do it. Remember, these are people who love you– so be gentle but firm. Tell them what you would like to do to help you grow up into the responsible man you want to be– be clear about what you want– and appreciative and grateful for how they’ve helped you.

Good luck-
Dr. Robyn

Any other advice for Rob? Please comment below with your own questions, stories, or 2 cents.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

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(Over)Protective Parents: Helpful or Harmful?

Are Some Parents Too Overprotective? What do you think?

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

My mom and I were speaking on the phone yesterday about a recent New York Times article on overprotective “helicopter parents,” their children and overnight camps. Did you see it?

Parents are “bombarding the camp with calls: one wanted help arranging private guitar lessons for her daughter, another did not like the sound of her child’s voice during a recent conversation, and a third needed to know — preferably today — which of her daughter’s four varieties of vitamins had run out. All before lunch.

We were laughing about how times certainly have changed since we were all younger– when parents told us to get up, rub some dirt on it, and give it another go. My Mom and I were trying to remember if I ever called when I was away at camp– maybe once– but we’re not completely certain of that figure. Of course, we didn’t have cell phones, email, web cams, or texting when we were kids– but would we have used them if we did?

People have been throwing around the term “helicopter parents” for quite some time now to describe parents who are overprotective of their children to a fault. Some people hate the term and others believe it’s spot on. Mothers and fathers often cite that “times have changed” and more hand-holding is necessary, even though, by many accounts, children in the United States are safer than ever. So is our attempt to protect negatively affecting our children’s ability to be self-determined and independent? What do you think?

Who: Sociologists find that helicopter parents tend to be mothers and fathers of “Millennials,” children of baby boomers, born between the early 1980s and 2000.

They saw their youngsters as “special,” and they sheltered them. Parents outfitted their cars with Baby on Board stickers. They insisted their children wear bicycle helmets, knee pads and elbow guards. They scheduled children’s every hour with organized extracurricular activities. They led the PTA and developed best-friend-like relationships with their children…Today, they keep in constant touch with their offspring via e-mail and cell phones. And when their children go off to college, parents stay just as involved.

Where do we see it: It’s been reported that overprotective parents are noticed on sports fields, schools, colleges, after-school programs, and now, even overnight camps. As I mentioned above, an article in the New York Times reported that overprotective parents have seeped into the camp culture, a place where children’s distance from home was often equated with “growing up” and “standing on their own 2 feet.”

In fact, the camps are now employing full-time parent liaisons to counsel parents from 7am to 10pm via email and phone. This position has become absolutely necessary because camps feel that they need to cater to the increasing number of parents who:

make unsolicited bunk placement requests, flagrantly flout a camp’s ban on cellphones and junk food, and consider summer an ideal time to give their offspring a secret vacation from Ritalin.

While camps want to accommodate parents, they worry that their over-involvement is negating the point of camp—a place to learn how to solve problems and make decisions without parental involvement. ]

What’s going on? Many reasons have been cited as motivators of overprotective parents. Parents are overprotective for all different reasons. In some cases, parents perceive that when they do something for their child, it comes out better. In other cases, parents feel a need for control in a world that seems more unpredictable and scary that it was when they were younger. Some parents have a fear of failure and hate to see their children struggle while others have a fear that their children will succeed and no longer need them as much as they did at one time. Still others feel entitled to check in with or about their children at any given time or they feel empowered by living vicariously through their sons and daughters who are doing things that the parents might not have been able to do when they were younger.

Here’s the rub from several sides:

(1) A study shows…Parental involvement can be very helpful. Data from 24 colleges and universities gathered for the National Survey of Student Engagement show that students whose parents were very often in contact with them and frequently intervened on their behalf “reported higher levels of engagement and more frequent use of deep learning activities,” such as after-class discussions with professors, intensive writing exercises and independent research, than students with less-involved parents. “Compared with their counterparts, children of helicopter parents were more satisfied with every aspect of their college experience, gained more in such areas as writing and critical thinking, and were more likely to talk with faculty and peers about substantive topics,” said survey director George D. Kuh, an Indiana University professor.

(2) A mixed reaction… Lenore Skenazy, a columnist for the New York Sun as well as a mother of a 9 year old son, recently talked about allowing her son to ride the subway on his own. People voiced both dismay and encouragement and called her everything from neglectful to a breath of fresh air. She used the incident to create her own blog about kids and independence, called Free Range Kids. The idea behind the concept is to live responsibly (seat belts, helmets, airbags, etc.), but not to restrict your child’s actions out of fear.

(3) The negative side of over-protectiveness, including:

(a) Undermining children’s confidence in their own abilities to take care of themselves and get things done;

(b) Instilling fear of failure such that they are denied the chance to learn how to persevere while standing on their own 2 feet;

(c) Stunting growth and development—in fact, studies have shown that these children lack some of the knowledge to negotiate what they need, solve their own problems, stay safe, and interact in close quarters with others;

(d) Inability to launch because they’re unsure of their passion, their own direction, and what to do next, if it means doing it on their own;

(e) Taking more staff, teacher, and administrator resources that would be directed towards their children but instead, must be used to tend to parental needs and wants; and, ironically,

(f) Raising parental anxiety levelsresearch has shown that parents who consistently judge their own self worth by their children’s success report feeling more sad and having a more negative self image than parents who did not engage in this behavior.

So, what do you think? Are parents going too far to protect their children and teens or are they justified in doing so? Do you think the affects are more positive or negative? Why? This is a heated topic with many different opinions. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Please comment below!

Related:

Letters to their helicopter parents from their children: first of series